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Jan 6, 2011 05:51 PM

What would be good with lamb shanks/olives/tomato?

I have a long weekend and will be able to do some cooking, so I was wondering what wines would go well with a Mark Bittman recipe ("How to Cook Everything") of lamb shanks with olives and tomatoes?
Thanks in advance.

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  1. I'd head toward Provence - a Cotes du Rhone or a Chateauneuf-de-Pape.

    1. A good Rhone.
      A Cote Rotie or Hermitage
      or, as suggested below, a good Chateauneuf-du-Pape

      1. Barbera or Sangiovese. Something nice and acidic.

        7 Replies
        1. re: invinotheresverde

          Alright, thanks for the suggestions. I have a Côtes du Rhône on hand (Voge Cornas "Les Chailles" 2005) and more of the Chåteauneuf-du-Pape (Beaucastel 2007) so perhaps French would be OK.
          I don't have much in the way of Italian wines - would a Bianchi Ghemme 2000 have the acidity that is recommended?

          1. re: altavino

            Could. Nebb's definitely have some acid. I'm still feeling Barbera with this, for sure.

            1. re: altavino

              Based on what you have, I would go with the Rhones.

              If you want to go out and buy Italian, perhaps a Taurasi from Campania?

              1. re: altavino

                I love Voge Cornas, which is not a Cotes-du-Rhone btw, and althouogh I've not had the 2005 "Les Chailles", one thing about Voge is that the wines can be brutal when young and at this moment, vintage 2005 is very, very young. I prefer my Cornas, including the ones by Voge, with at least 12-15 years of cellar age.

                On the other hand, I read a few recent tasting notes on the 2007 Beaucastel that say it is drinking beautifully with a couple of hours of decant time. I'll go with the Beaucastel with your available choices, before the wine shuts down to sleep.

                1. re: RCC

                  I bought a few bottles of the Cornas (was on sale at one of the wine shops), and we've drunk a couple. Of course, I can't guess what we've missed out on by not waiting many more years but we found them quite nice - not highly tannic or unpleasantly biting... ?

                2. re: altavino

                  From Italy, the Ghemme and some acid, yes, but Ialso consider something from farther south, with some warmth: Aglianico del Vulture from Basilicata, Cerasuolo di Vittoria from Sicily, or a Cannonau from Sardinia. Also, from Greece, a good agiorgitiko (Nemea, maybe) or a xynomavro would be a very comfortable match with lamb and its flavors.

                  1. re: altavino

                    altavino, I don't know about its acidity (it's been a few years since I've had any), but I would think your Ghemme would be enjoyable with your lamb dish. Of all your Italians, it's closest to the right age for opening, & I think the rustic-ness of your meal would be better paired with this wine than with one of your softer new acquisitions.

                3. I think French Rhones and Chateauneuf would be fine. There are lots of tomato and olive notes in cuisine in southern France, and they work well together.

                  10 Replies
                  1. re: lemons

                    Agree. Plus the olive notes are also evident in Rhone wines.

                    1. re: lemons


                      One of the easiest ways to pick a wine is to choose something from the same (or a similar) region as your recipe...olives and tomatoes and lamb are very Provencal, so a Provencal red should pair pretty well.

                      For a third option, you could go with a Rioja -- Spanish cooking frequently features a lot of olives and tomatoes, too.

                      1. re: sunshine842

                        Yes, a red Rioja, would have been my next choice. after Rhones.
                        Somehow, the nature of the dish is very Rhone, and there's that "garrique" and Provencal factor that makes it not the most appropriate pairing with high-acid italian reds.

                        1. re: RCC

                          I agree that a Rhone would be just fine, but I love tomatoes and olives with high-acid Italian reds. YMMV.

                          1. re: invinotheresverde

                            note that I didn't say it's a bad pairing, i.e. Provencal lamb dish and Italian red. I simply said it's not the most appropriate, imho.

                            1. re: RCC

                              Interesting. The dish rings as Italian to me as it does Provencal.

                              1. re: invinotheresverde

                                It does. But the addition of Olives, not just olive oil, adds a dimension of flavor that is very Provencal. The dish then will have that briny taste to it, in addition to just being tomatoey. Plus, I don't think the Bittman recipe calls for Herbes-de-Provence, but if thyme is used instead, then the herby taste adds to the Southern Rhone kind-of-thing-to-it.

                                1. re: RCC

                                  Hmm. Bittman specified using Italian olives, or Greek, so perhaps that's why this resonates so Italian with me.

                                  Anyhow, not trying to be argumentative. I just like understanding the thought process behind other people's recs.

                                  1. re: invinotheresverde

                                    I do, too, but I think in the Bittman spirit, it's probably OK not to fuss the wine matching details. With herbes de provence as a note, a Gigondas at cool room temp. Other versions of the dish might have different flavor notes--the dish in neighboring Liguria, say, might be more restrained, with just parsley maybe. But any well-made spicy, good acid mid-weight red from the Rhone, Italy, or Greece would not be a bad choice.

                                    1. re: invinotheresverde

                                      True that Italian or Greek olives were bittman But we also use Spanish olives for our Salade Nicoise and it always tasted Provencal to us.

                      2. Might I suggest a different French wine that would pair quite well to the high intensity flavors of lamb shanks and olives: Cahors. The deep color ("black wine") and deep flavor would do your dish proud, I think.

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: therealdoctorlew

                          I'd hesitate on the olives -- the Cahors has so much going on in its own glass that it might duke it out with the olives (and olives are absolutely not Aquitaine)

                          1. re: sunshine842

                            I'm going to agree with Cahors fighting with olives...

                            1. re: ChefJune

                              My preference is that a complex wine with distinct complex flavors is the best match for a dish of similar properties. I see a team rather than a fight, but if your preferences may be to have a wine in a subservient postion, that is also valid. I like to balance strength with strength.

                              1. re: therealdoctorlew

                                not subservient...but the flavors of the Aquitaine where Cahors are produced don't include olives or even strong tomato flavors...see my note about choosing wines that are from the same or similar regions. There's nothing wimpy or subservient about the flavors of the Aquitaine...but I wouldn't pair them with a Cotes du Rhone for the same reason I wouldn't pair a Cahors with a dish with flavors reminiscent of Provence.

                                Even though it's only a few hundred kilometres from Cahors to Nimes, the wines and food might as well be on opposite sides of the planet.