Lamb is one of the most sought after meats from young animals, and more available than veal. It is certainly more popular than mutton, the meat from an older sheep. When it comes to pairing wine with lamb with a wine, a few guidelines are appropriate, but let your palate rule your choice.
The Main Choice for Lamb
Strong red wines are particularly delicious with lamb. Though lamb a young meat and so has developed less flavor than the aforementioned mutton, it is a red meat and so does pair quite well with red wines. To say that “lamb” prefers red wine is to simplify the question a bit too much. The term lamb encompasses a wide range of cuts: lamb chops, leg of lamb, and lamb shanks. Then the preparations: roast lamb, stew, kebabs, even ground lamb for burgers!
The fact remains that a certain preparation will alter the specific wine you need. Even within the red wine family, variations exist. Serve a Pinot noir with a lightly flavored preparation, such as a roast or a steak. Serve the stronger wines—Merlot, Syrah, Red Zinfandel—with more strongly flavored dishes. Ethnic dishes with spices, or more familiar dishes flavored with herbs and garlic all take well to very strong wines.
If lamb kebabs are on the menu, take the vegetables into account. Each vegetable contributes its own unique flavor to the overall profile of the dish. The wine you serve will need to adapt to each of these flavors.
But What About the Whites?
Does lamb break the red meat-red wine rule? If you wish for it to do so, yes it can. Some of the newer pairings are a reflection of the spreading of most cuisines around the world. Highly spiced dishes—think stereotypical Thai or Indian dishes—work very well with sweeter wines such as Riesling and Gewürtztraminer. The sweetness is a delicious foil to the spice. Lighter whites work quite well paired with dishes filled with herbs, cheese, and fresh vegetables. Heavier whites are scrumptious with heavier dishes: think a Sunday lamb roast.
Red wine may be the best type of wine to serve with lamb, but it is certainly not the only. Lamb is itself an acquired taste, and pairing it with another sort of wine is as well. But just as you will never know if you care for lamb if you refuse to try it, you will never now how you regard white wine with lamb until you have sampled them together. Even if it’s a burger with ground lamb rather than ground beef, serve it with a Sauvignon blanc next time and see what you think. There’s no reason not to.
|Food||Wine (Best Pairing Listed First)|
|Lamb Dishes in General; Mild Dishes||Cabernet, Rioja, Pinot Noir, Riesling|
|Lamb in Garlic and Herbs||Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Rhône, Spanish red wine|
|Lamb Chops||Cabernet Sauvignon, wines high in tannins|
|Lamb Shanks||Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel|
|Grilled Lamb with Veggies||Syrah/Shiraz, Zinfandel|
|Roasted Lamb||Barolo, Châteauneuf-du-Pape|