Mediterranean reds pair well with the lamb of March
As winter slouches all too slowly toward spring, fret not. Take the opportunity to enjoy a delicious lamb stew with robust red wines.
Every Mediterranean culture has a tasty lamb stew tradition with red wine. In every rendition, the slowly cooked lamb must melt in the mouth with savory goodness. The red wine's bold flavors and freshness should balance the stew's richness.
Italian lamb stews typically feature tomatoes with rosemary, garlic, onions and green olives. Other Italian variations add carrots, artichokes and bell peppers.
Southern Italian red wines make a perfect complement. The 2010 Villa Mottur, Primitivo di Manduria, Italy (Luxury 33019; Chairman's Selection On Sale: $11.99) fits the bill nicely.
The primitivo grapes grow in the Salento Peninsula, the “heel” of Italy's famous geographic “boot.” Phoenician traders first brought primitivo from Dalmatia. Later, Greek settlers tamed the vines while establishing grape-growing in Salento during ancient times.
For much of the grape's history, northern Italian wineries used southern primitivo wines for blending. The wines from the sunny south added alcoholic heft to the often thin northern Italian reds. Since the early 1920s, however, the Mottura family has steadily built a reputation for producing Salento wines of excellent quality in their own right.
The family avoids over-ripening the fruit to eliminate unpleasant prune traits. Hand-harvesting plucks the grapes at just the right moment when refreshing acidity balances ample fruitiness.
Temperature-controlled fermentation also preserves proper balance. Aging in older French-oak barrels adds elegance and refined tannins for additional balance.
This wine's ruddy color offers black-fruit aromas with hints of plum and smokiness. Ripe black- and red-fruit flavors emerge with a touch of spice. Fine acidity and smooth tannins balance a fruity, but dry, finish. Recommended.
In southern France, traditional daube stews braise lamb in wine with vegetables, plenty of garlic and herbes de Provence. Other tasty touches can include orange peel, olives, prunes and cloves. Traditionally, the dish slowly simmers in a daubière, a round clay pot that enhances the meat's moist tenderness.
Lamb daube pairs beautifully with classic grenache, syrah and mourvèdre red blends prevalent throughout the southern Rhône and neighboring Languedoc region. The best examples of the wines have lovely wild garrigue aromas to match daube's strong rosemary, thyme, bay leaf and garlic traits.
Try, for example, the delicious 2011 Le Loup Dans La Bergerie Vin du Pays Val de Montferrand, France (Luxury 39656; $11.99). The name actually refers to the “wolf in the lamb's shelter.” The blend of grenache and syrah comes from winegrower Jean Orliac, a fearless pioneer in reclaiming the exquisite vineyards of Pic Saint Loup.
In 1970, Orliac and his young bride, Marie-Thérèse, reclaimed a then-desolate winery and vineyard in Combe de Fambétou, a hamlet between the Pic Saint Loup and Hortus mountains. The rocky soils and ideal Mediterranean climate had the potential to produce outstanding fruit, but it required patience and relentless hard work to bring the vines to maturity.
This tasty wine bears witness to Orliac's dedication and talents in assembling wines from his vineyards and those of his neighbors. The wine's pretty ruby color offers ripe blackberry and earthy notes with hints of black pepper. The ripe red-fruit and plum flavors layer with bright, refreshing acidity and moderate tannins. It makes for a quaffable red perfect with daube. Highly recommended.
Traditional Spanish lamb stews feature sweet red bell peppers, garlic, nutmeg, cloves and red wine. Red wines from Rioja in northern Spain make a particularly good match.
Try the 2007 Campo Viejo Rioja Reserva, Spain (9327; $13.99). The winery captures the traditional essence of Rioja's marvelous terroir even while producing millions of bottles annually in a modern hillside winery.
The blend of tempranillo, garnacha and mazuelo grapes, Rioja's traditional trio, benefits from sunny days and cool nights. The grapes work together to a marvelous balance of ripeness and freshness.
After fermentation in stainless steel, the wine ages for 18 months in a combination of American- and French-oak barrels of varying ages. The barrels impart classic spiciness, one of Rioja's trademarks. The combination of ripe plum and berry fruit, freshness and spice complements the lamb stew brilliantly. Highly recommended.
Dave DeSimone is a wine writer for Trib Total media. he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- More companies embrace exchanges to curb health care costs
- Navigating how to pay for college a challenge as costs continue to rise and aid varies
- Hospitals turning to technology to tear down language barriers with patients
- White House intrusions reveal problems with security, Secret Service
- Springdale boys collect win in double overtime
- London must keep promises to Scotland, former Prime Minister Brown says
- Worth of nickel rising in NFL
- Penn State rolls past Massachusetts
- Brownsville restaurant opens in historic home, pays homage to ‘Gone With the Wind’ plantation
- The Box
- Penn State notebook: LG Dowrey gets chance to start on struggling O-line