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Wine Pairing Advice for Roast Leg of Lamb

Hello all; I'm a fairly decent home cook but I'm just delving into learning about wine pairings. (Why I'm just learning now involves a long story about a wine-snob husband who is now an ex-husband, but I digress)

I'm having some lovely friends over to dinner this weekend. I'm responsible for the main course, leg of lamb, which I plan to roast with an herb and garlic crust. I plan to serve it with some potatoes in a romesco sauce and would like some wine suggestions. One of the friends is quite an accomplished wine guy so I'd like to serve something little off the beaten path. I'm hoping to keep within the $25-$30 range. The lamb is grassfed, if that makes a difference.

Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

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  1. I would go with a good bottle of red Zinfandel - it handles garlic extremely well. You should have no problem finding an excellent Zin in this price range.
    My second choice would be some Syrah.

    You local wine merchant should recommened you specific names from whatever is available in your area.

    To impress your friend - serve the wine at the right temperature - around 55-60 F.

    1. For the lamb dish, 3 top picks are all richer reds here... Rioja, Zinfandel, or Cabernet Sauvignon...

      If I have to pick one, it's probably Cabernet....

      As an aside I'd do a Moscato d'Asti and appetizers to open the meal... then leave everyone's glass of moscato on the table when you serve the lamb, because it's such a tremendous connection to the romesco sauce.

      1. Lamb roasted medium to medium-rare goes well with a wide range of structured reds -- including those listed above and such stalwarts as Côtes du Rhône -- and your herb and garlic crust does little to change that. If there's a pairing challenge here, it's the romesco sauce, with its tomatoes and Catalonian flavours. Since you're seeking something a little unusual, a Priorat -- an intense blend of lamb-friendly grape varieties grown near Barcelona -- might be just the ticket. Mas Igneus and Palacios' Les Terrasses are two fairly widely distributed Priorats in your general price range. Just avoid the 2003s, which are coarse and heavy due to the heat of that infernal summer.

        8 Replies
        1. re: carswell

          Thanks so much everyone. I was thinking something Spanish to go with the romesco, but I tend to doubt my own instincts.

          1. re: carswell

            I thought romesco involved roasted red peppers rather than tomatoes?

            Roasted lamb is probably the most red wine friendly food. Priorat sounds mighty tasty. Just about any Northern Rhône will work. For something a little off the beaten path, Minervois?

            1. re: mengathon

              Yes romesco gets its red color from red bell peppers. It's thickened with walnuts, and the best I ever had was made by Marimar Torres, of the winery by the same name, and she served it with a wine I thought I'd hate --a big unctuous butterball Chardonnay with a fair amount of RS. It went brilliantly with the romesco. I was won over. I've since had red bell pepper soup with a non-ML Far Niente chardonnay, and realized that these two flavors --cooked (not necessarily charred) red bell pepper and chardonnay -- are wonderful together.
              So that'd be my rec for the appetizer.

              In terms of lamb, I like Rioja, Ribera del Duero, and particularly Cab Franc,
              especially if the lamb is grass fed and so lighter in flavor. Not quite as light as spring lamb, but moving in that direction. Zinfandel is a phenomenal grape with garlic -- the pepper zinginess of the Zin matches up with garlic nicely.

              1. re: maria lorraine

                After I read carswell's note below about tomatoes in romesco, I went and checked out a few more recipes, and it seemed that the older recipes (from the 1980s or so) seem to call for red bell peppers only. And though most of the romescos I've had have been thickened with walnuts, almonds seem to be the authentic nut to use. Also, wanted to mention that I rarely recommend chardonnay but that it's been very lovely in my experience with romesco. But, you're aren't serving romesco alone; it's a side for the potatoes that accompany the lamb. If you were serving it with shrimp as an appetizer, then chard would be great. But lamb loves red, and you have many good recs here. P.S. I grew up in Kirkwood.

                1. re: maria lorraine

                  Yep, same here; I had always made romesco with red pepper and almonds. For some reason, the idea of adding tomatoes and other nuts had never occurred to me. I think I'll take Carswell's advice and try it out with other ingredients next time.

              2. re: mengathon

                «I thought romesco involved roasted red peppers rather than tomatoes»

                Peppers are a constant, tomatoes an optional but very frequent ingredient. Just googled "romseco" and nearly all the recipes and definitions on the first two pages of results call for or mention tomatoes in one form or another. In *Catalan Cuisine*, Coleman Andrews describes romesco sauce (it is also an alternative name for the nyora pepper and the name of a seafood stew) as "based on pulverized almonds and hazlenuts, dried sweet peppers, and tomatoes." The recipe he says is a "faithful adaptation of the city of Tarragona's official *Romesco* recipe" includes tomatoes.

                Yes to Minervois or one of the fine wines from even closer to the Catalonian border (Côtes Catalanes, Collioure, etc.).

                1. re: carswell

                  The recipe I'm going to use is from Sunday Suppers at Lucques and she calls for anchos, hazelnuts, almonds and tomatoes (among other things).

                  1. re: shannoninstlouis

                    that's exactly why I'd recommended moscato d'asti on the side here.... muscat is one of the single-best connections to hazelnuts and almonds, pairs nicely with the significant garlic in the sauce and is overall just very food friendly and a nice palate freshener with these heavier flavors...

                    Find something nice as an app to match it with, then keep it on the side as a "back up" to your red wine when you bring out the lamb and romesco side-dish.

            2. Depending on the actual prep. of the lamb, I usually reach for a N. Rhône, usually a smoky Côte Rôtie. However, that might really stretch your budget. I'm with the Zin. rec. on this. It will handle the garlic and cut the fat of the lamb.

              Hunt

              1. That dish goes with SOOOO many different red wines. From Italy the first two I thought of...you could do a Nebbiolo/Barbera blend such as is made by Rocche dei Manzoni. (Clerico and La Spinetta also make great ones, bu those are more expensive.) You could do an Aglianico. But you could honsetly do almost any Italian red and particularly either Piedmont or centralor southern Italy. From Spain, again, almost anything, Rioja, Toro, Priorat, Ribera, they would all be great... From France I'd do a Rhone, for budget reasons probably southern such as a Gigondas or a Chateauneuf du Pape. (How ever, my #1 pairing choice for this dish would be a Cote Rotie, I just cannot reccomend any good ones under $50.)

                I would stick with an old world wine, I think they work better with earthy roasted dishes. But if you were dead set on new world, I'd go Pinot.