August 2021: A Challenging Pairing!

I love a challenge, especially when it involves food and wine! I was tasked with selecting the perfect wine to serve at a dinner party. The main course was slow cooked lamb, so Rioja seemed an obvious choice: wood spice, red cherry and tobacco notes, a grip of tannin and a long finish. However, this leg of lamb was stuffed with Pecorino cheese, mint and artichokes. Wrapped in bay leaves and thyme, slow cooked to perfection and served with barley braised in ale. This showstopper dish required a showstopping wine!

When selecting a wine, I consider the weight of the food and find a similarly weighted wine. The key is to find balance; the wine shouldn’t dominate the food or vice versa. The wines tannin, acidity and alcohol should play a supporting role to the food and the wine act as a canvas for the ingredients of the dish. There were so many flavours in this dish to consider! Should I select a juicy fruit bomb of a wine? No, this would have been heavy handed, the juicy berry fruit drowning out the herbs. Perhaps a rose? No, a rose would get lost with the rich tannin and texture of the lamb.

I needed something to complement the lamb, Pecorino, herbs and barley. I decided an old European vintage wine would be the perfect partner. I selected Grato Grati, Vecchia Annata 1991 from Tuscany, Italy. It is made with Sangiovese grapes and has a sophisticated earthy tannin, mellow fruit developing to dried herbs, dried fruits and old oak. It’s delicious and has just the right weight, acidity, tannin and finish to complement the lamb dish. I was delighted to find a 30 year old wine and the guests loved it!