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Wine and Lamb Pairings – Perfect Matching

If there are two things Australia is known for in the food and beverage world, it’s probably lamb and wine. Boasting some of the world’s best of each, these two classics are featured daily on dinner tables and in restaurants across the country. Many local wines are a natural match for Aussie lamb, but depending on the preparation of the dish, there are a variety of styles, expressions and regions that best suit.

Here are our tips on pairing wine with lamb, which vary based on what cut you’re talking and how it is prepared:

Lamb Roasts and Racks

Whether it’s an Easter feast, a wintery roast shoulder or a young spring leg of lamb, these dishes are Australian  staples. They are usually simply prepared, with some oil and herbs to help the meat develop flavour and shine as the star of a meal. When choosing a wine to match, go for a medium-bodied red, perhaps a Chianti from the southern parts of the region, a Gamay, a Merlot blend (ideally one from Bordeaux) or even a Cabernet Sauvignon that is more on the fruity side than peppery.

Lamb roasts, an Aussie staple, match well with a range of medium-bodied red wines

Slow Cooked Lamb and Shanks

Here is where your lamb becomes really complex with a fair bit of fat and even gamey flavour. Such dishes can handle a fair bit of body in a wine pairing, and need something with enough acid and tannins and cut through the richness of the meal. Cool climate Aussie Shiraz or French Rhônes, as well as more serious Grenache and Cabernet are an ideal match for this style of lamb.

Lamb Chops

Whether pan-seared on grilled on the barbecue, lamb chops are usually be cooked over high heat and served rarer than other cuts. When matching, a wine must stand up to the crispy char on the outside, but shouldn’t overwhelm the delicate, tender meat at the centre of the chops. A medium or even full bodied red that is fruit forward and not too acidic or spicy, such as Chilean Pinot Noir or Argentine Malbec, will achieve this balance and bring out the best in your chops.

Lamb chops are usually crispy and savoury on the outside, and delicate and tender on the inside – a fruity New World red is often a good match for a such dishes

Moroccan or Spicy Lamb

Often, lamb is prepared with Moroccan spices of cumin, ginger, cinnamon, cayenne and allspice. Like the chops, you need something to stand up to these bold flavours, but these dishes are likely cooked further and are thus less delicate – as such, you can have s bit of acid, smoke or spice in your wine, rather than just soft fruits. A smooth but weighted Pinot Noir, like one from Oregon’s Willamette Valley or Victoria’s Yarra Valley, as well a fresh Tempranillo, such as a Rioja Crianza, will suit nicely.

Check out what we have to say about pairing wine with other main ingredients, such as chicken and barbecue dishes.

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Jill Haapaniemi

Jill Haapaniemi

Jill is a lover of all things food and wine. As a food blogger and recipe developer, she is passionate about sharing meals with others, never without a bottle of something to enhance the experience. She spends her free time at her partner’s family winery just outside of Melbourne, and can usually be found drinking Oregon Pinot, wines from the Rhône Valley or Victorian Shiraz.
Jill Haapaniemi

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