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Lamb pairing

I'm having some people over this week, and I'm making a quasi-braise of slow-cooked lamb, lemon, garlic and paprika. I'm serving it with a fava bean preparation of some sort.

My lamb recipe always wins raves, but I've never found the ideal wine to stack up against it.

The first place my mind goes for such a intense, rich, zesty dish is syrah, and I have one bottle of beuatiful Côte-Rôtie by B. Levet that I might like to open.... but there will be at least 5 people, so I'd like to pick up another bottle or two. Any specific or general suggestions?

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  1. Though Syrah and lamb are a marriage made in heaven, the flavours at play here might push me in another direction: Spain, specifically a fine, not too oaky Ribera del Duero with some age on it. Other than that, Chateau Musar would be a treat.

    3 Replies
    1. re: carswell

      Ah, the Ch. Musar - from the land of lamb. I did have this paired at the Greenhouse, Mayfair, and it was sublime. Good call.


      1. re: carswell

        I also thought of Spain when I read your flavor components for the lamb. Actually, what came to mind was Torres' Gran' Corona!

        Lamb is my favorite red meat. I think it can go well with quite a number of red wines, but the flavors added always rule my choice... I think I'd save the Cote Rotie for a smaller number of guests, in any case.

        Be sure to let us know what you choose.

        1. re: carswell

          Wow, I like the idea of a Lebanese wine with the Mediterranean flavors involved. I think I can get my hands on some '97 or '98 red Musar. Definitely something to look into.

        2. Without actually tasting the dish, my first inclination would be (as is yours) a Côte-Rôtie, or Hermitage. If the richness is less, maybe a Croze-Hermitage, but otherwise, the bigger (usually) full Hermitage. I'm usually doing a grilled lamb, so my pairings might not match your recipe/prep.

          Not knowing where you are located, or what might be lurking in you cellar, I cannot offer suggestions for picking up a "ready-to-drink" Côte-Rôtie, but you can always decant prior to the guests' arrival, if you have to go with one, with little age on it. I'd pour a glass for "the chef," and monitor it as the guests arrive. When you think it's ready, then pour and serve, or stopper the decanter, in hopes of slowing down the artificial aging. This can be a bit tricky, so I usually have everything ready and "drop the flag," when I think the wine should be served. Sometimes, it get frenetic, but my servers are usually alerted that we might need to go, on a second's notice.

          Be sure to let us know what you go with, and how it goes.


          1. Lamb is very versatile, and works surprising well with a number of wines -- from a right bank Bordeaux to a Rhône, even a big CA Pinot will work. However, since you already have a Côte-Rôtie, the first question you have to ask is: do you want to serve both wines at the same time, thereby encouraging side-by-side comparisons; OR do you want to open up one, and have the second one if needed?

            If it's side-by-side, I would encourage you to think about another Syrah from the Northern Rhône, either a second Côte-Rôtie, and Hermitage, or perhaps a St.-Joseph or Cornas.

            If it's one at a time, then I would encourage you to switch grape varieties -- and go with a wine like carswell suggested, an older Ribera del Duero from Spain or a Vinho Tinto from the Douro in Piortugal; or maybe a Pomerol, or a full-bodied CA or Washington State Merlot . . . .

            1. While the Levet Cote Rotie is certainly a stunner, the inclusion of lemon and fava givesthe dish a fresh and "springy" lift. I would be more inclined to go with a brighter, fresher red. When I make Navarin d'Angeau (braised lamb w/ spring vegetables), my go to wine is usually something from the Cotes de Beaune. I like to go with a Santenay, Chassagne Montrachet Rouge or Savigny Les Beaune; preferably from the 1999 or 2001 vintage.

              1. LOL!

                I love B. Levet Cote Rotie La Chavaroche! And I pair it with braised lamb frequently. Be warned, the 2003 needs hours of time in a decanter to open up, if that is the vintage you have.

                As others have said, the inclusion of lemon does make me think of maybe something a little brighter depending upon how pronounced it is.

                You could try an Aglianico. I find those pair well with braised lamb.

                1. For what it is worth, I have no idea what vintage Levet you have, but I wrote a tasting note for the '03 last month...

                  The 1998 of this is what got me into Cote Rotie. Levet is a very traditional producer who really lets the terroir shine through and has resited the more modern style that much of the Northern Rhone has adopted. I call his wines "rustic." 2003 is just a super-extracted modern vintage. What happens when the two are mated? Decanted for 3+ hours... The nose is rediculous. 96 points, easy. It would be a 97 point nose if it were just a little less reticent -- the best smelling wine I've had this year. Purple fruits with tons of violets, crushed rose petals, pine oil, bacon fat and just a hint of anise, brown olives, scorched earth, and pot. It smells better than the descriptors I'm using, trust me. BUT... there is a 5+ point drop to the palate. This thing is YOUNG. The 91/91.5 point palate comes across as monolithic compared to the nose -- just really the purple fruits. And the finish is only about 30 seconds. The 1998, 2000, and 2001 were all ready to drink young but this requires time. I'd cellar for at least 5 years, but then -- watch out! This is going to be a giant killer. It will be a 96 point wine, maybe more. Despite the palate's shortcomings, for having a nose better than the wine that I would have pegged as DRC: 94+ and WOTN.

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: whiner

                    Indeed, I have the 2003. I actualy saw this same review on another site yesterday, while I was contemplating committing infanticide--very good stuff, thank you. I'm still not sure if I'll open it, but will I do I plan to give it several hours of aeration, as you suggest.

                    Thanks for all the suggestions so far!

                    1. re: Yaqo Homo

                      Because of the lemon I would pour a Loire Valley red, I think Cabernet Franc would sing with a dish like that.

                      1. re: bubbles4me

                        Great minds. Beyond the wine's Mediterranean flavours, one of the reasons I recco'd the Musar was because the weight and structure of the 1998 I tasted a couple of months ago brought the Loire to mind:

                        >Château Musar 1998, Bekaa Valley (C$51)
                        Mostly Cabernet Sauvignon with Cinsault and Carignan aged 12-15 months in new oak barrels. In every way, different from the others wines in the flight. Medium brownish maroon. Nose of beet juice, red meat, boiled candy, dried herbs and even a little barbecue sauce. Supple, fruity (berries, especially cranberries), acid bright, balanced and long. Unusual – had me thinking of the Loire, another taster of the Jura – and something of a sphinx, but all the more interesting for it.

                        It's also worth noting that, since we're talking about a braised dish, the meat will be well-done and therefore better suited to a suppler, medium-weight wine than to a blockbuster.

                        1. re: carswell

                          I was on the fence between Tempier Bandol or Loire and the lemon just made me think Loire, my favoite bistro type wine...goes with alot. Lamb is so versital, its the ohter things that can be tricky.Seper cool that we were thinking the same thing.

                  2. I'll definitely pick up some 98 Musar. Another thought I was toying with: Joseph Phelps Le Mistral blend (mostly syrah/grenache). I've always found this wine very approachable (and thus suitable for diverse company) and think the intense spice might work well here...

                    1. grilled some lamb Sunday and had '02 Dehlinger Cab with it; warmed some up last night and had J. Lassalle rose champagne with it. both worked equally well, apropos of Zin's comment about versatility

                      1. I would stick with the Rhone riff, but go for something even earthier, like a Gigondas.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: Megiac

                          fair point; lamb and Les Pallieres have worked well for me in the past as has lamb and a vacqueryas

                        2. Serve your fine frenchy and add one of the richer /extracted Santa Barbara -California Pinots:
                          speifically : Lincourt ( county blend) Sea Smoke Botella , ,Mellville anything,
                          The 98' Bridalwood Syrah had a cult following.
                          Sounds like your dish is so good that you do not want a wine to overwhelm and almost all the replies/recc /suggestions would be great.
                          have fun

                          1. I thought a Super Tuscan would be great with this dish. Just a thought, but I thought the Sangiovese would add great acidity and the Cab/Merlot would add great tannins.

                            1. I appreciate all the savvy advice offered here. We went with the '98 Chateau Musar; I decanted it for several hours, and everyone was thrilled with the pairing. None of us had ever tasted a red quite so exotic... it had a perfumy sweetness, clovey spice, perhaps some sherry-style oxidation(?), medium body and beautiful balance... quirky, but very well-crafted and a good match for the food. If I can muster the self control, I'll keep the B. Levet for a few more years. Thanks again!

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: Yaqo Homo

                                Glad that the Ch. Musar went well. We NOW expect TNs on the B. Levet!