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Sep 18, 2008 09:31 PM

wine for braised lamb

Can anyone recommend a wine varietal to go with braised lamb shoulder? I don't need specific wines, as I will probably just grab something from the 'cellar'.

thanks as usual for your knowledge!

I should mention that this is Alberta lamb, not New Zealand, it tends to have a much milder lamb flavor.

here is the recipe I am thinking of...

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  1. I know you asked only for varietal, but since they change SO much with region...

    Southern Rhone (red)
    Rustic Cote Rotie
    Piedmont Nebbiolo
    Piedmont Barbera
    Pinot (anywhere)

    I love Lidia's recipies. Looks good...

    2 Replies
    1. re: whiner

      thanks whiner,

      I definitely have a pinot or 2. I think I have a nebiolo, but not sure where it is from. I have the Goat Roati...does that count ;)

      I assume from what you are suggesting, that we should go with a medium to light bodied wine?

      1. re: cleopatra999

        I don't think medium-light is necessary. But I do think that you don't need a fruit bomb, either. This is a rich, earthy, dish, and I'd want a red with more earth notes (but not those notes assiciated with Bordeaux varietals). But even a darker CA Pinot is going to work just because the fruit flavors in Pinot match so well with the meat flavors of lamb.

        By the way, I was thinking of a darker Barbera, eg Clerico, Sandrone, Spinetta, etc. Not a brighter one.

    2. While alot of richer reds work, Cabernet Sauvignon is my first choice.

      But if your wine vendor can offer you a substantially better zinfandel (or better value, etc.), then zin would be the closest second. I'd prefer to have a great zin to an "average" cabernet with this meal, so see what your vendors can offer you.

      3 Replies
      1. re: Chicago Mike

        CM: hoping to use something we have downstairs, and we actually have some nice zins that we brought back from Cali last year.

        1. re: cleopatra999

          Cleo: then this might be a perfect opportunity to do a taste-testing of 3 or 4 varietals with the lamb, and perhaps prepare a couple different lamb dishes so your diners can really compare and contrast the various matchups. Serve little half-pours of each varietal, diners love that stuff.

          1. re: cleopatra999


            You are, more or less, braising lamb in white wine. with a mirepoix and aromatics. A more medium-toned, aromatic, balanced, non fruit-oak-alcohol bomb such as Rafanelli actually might work well here, But the more aggressive style that is being produced by almost everyone else right now, I do not believe would. Examples of prudecers I would stay away from *FOR THIS DISH* include: Martinelli, Turley, Seghesio, Robert Biale, Novy, Carlisle, Rosenblum, Carol Shelton... While I do occasionally like that overripe style (especially as produced by Martinelli -- and maybe Carlisle as well) this is a rich dish with complex, earthy, flavors and I would not pair a low acid/high alcohol super-dark fruit bomb with it.

            Also, I happen to think that both the bell pepper and the tobacco qualities to most Cabernets and Bordeaux varietals in general would do nothing for the dish, irrespective of origin.

        2. Be sure to avoid anything high in tannins. They tend to perform poorly during cooking.

          2 Replies
          1. re: The Chemist

            Okay, just checked out the 'cellar'

            I have the following...
            2001 Cline Big Break Zin
            2003 Tresspass Cab Sav
            2003 O.Fournier Spiga
            2004 Moreson Pinotage (S.Africa)

            Supposed to wait until December?:
            Talty 2005 Zin
            2005 Hartford Zin
            2005 Holdredge Pinot
            2005 Peay Pinot

            there are only 4 of us, so a tasting is sort of out. All though there is a good chance that we will open more than 1 bottle.

            1. re: cleopatra999


              From that list...

              Do the Peay. It you are sticking to that list... I've not had the Holdredge Pinot so I cannot comment. That would be my guess at bottle #2, but I just don't know. While I think the style is a bit too ripe and I have no idea which bottling you are speaking of, the Hartford is going to be a well made, relatively balanced wine, and I would consider that as my #2.

          2. Rhone would be my pick.

            If you would consider purchasing a bottle as opposed to opening a bottle on hand, I highly recommend the Charvin Cotes du Rhone, either '05 or '06. It should cost around $20-$25 and would pair nicely with this dish.

            6 Replies
            1. re: vinosnob

              So the winner was the Holdredge Pinot (my Peay Pinot needs to sit another year). We opened this and the Hartford Zin, both were lovely, but the Pinot was better paired with the lamb. I think that the Zin would have been okay if it was New Zealand lamb, which has a lot more flavor, but this was Alberta lamb, with a more delicate flavor.

              thanks for all the help!

              1. re: cleopatra999

                Thanks for the feedback, Cleo!

                How did you like the dish?

                1. re: whiner

                  whiner: didn't love it, which surprised me as the ratings were really high on it. the meat was tender, but the cinnamon was a little too strong. I found eating the shoulder to be finicky due to the bones & cartilage. the flavors reminded me of morroccan dish more than Italian, seemed like it should have chickpeas & apricots. It was also not at all visually appealing. the meat did not brown at all and the sauce was a dull yellow/brown. next time I will try braising a leg.

                  1. re: cleopatra999

                    I just read the recipe and I think that it is missing some KEY steps in this type of braise. May I suggest the following modifications:

                    1) Brown the meat before braising. It doesn't seal in flavors like people thought for years, but it will improve the colour and texture of the finished meat.

                    2) After you have cooked the meat, refrigerate the meat in the liquid overnight. When you are ready to finish the dish, retrieve it from the refrigerator and remove the fat that has congealed on top of the braising liquid. Now that this unnecessary fat has been removed, your final sauce will be much cleaner, more flavorful, have better consistency and will be healthier. Also, the meat will have reabsorbed a good amount of the cooking liquid and will be more flavorful and juicy as a result. Simply reheat and reduce the sauce before serving.

                    Hope that helps!

                  2. re: whiner

                    Cleo, Whiner,

                    I was wondering about the cinnamon -- seemed like a lot. I much prefer lamb shanks for braising -- for some reason shoulder doesn't have the lipsmacking collagen that melts into meaty lusciousness when it's braised. I always do a Provencal lamb shanks with a mirepoix, canned tomatoes, a fair amount of fresh orange juice and zest, rosemary, lavender and mint, that's braised for 2 hours in the oven. Rhones and Barberas are my favorites with it though many red wines will work -- nothing too heavy, though.

                    1. re: maria lorraine

                      We ate the leftovers last night along with the leftover potato, vegetables and sauce. cut the meat off the bone, then simmered it all together. MUCH better this way, an enjoyable stew! the cinnamon mellowed as the stick was removed. now I want to make a lamb stew! too bad we did not want to open another bottle last night, it would have been enjoyable with it!