Easter is coming and with Easter comes the Lamb. Karitsa or Lammas, the difference will be the texture and the taste. Lammas is in general stronger and tougher, it requires a more powerful wine. As Lamb is a tasty meat, you cannot put whatever wine and most white will not match at all. Therefore, I advise only red. Then the meat is tasty and subtle. You cannot serve a powerful oaky red (like a Cabernet Sauvignon), this will not fit at all. You need a wine that will be more on the side of spiciness with also possibly a hint of aromatic herbs.
The obvious choice is Syrah (and you can notice that on Alko’s internet site). However, let’s be honest, the Syrah of Alko are hardly drinkable: the selection of this grape is very poor. There are good Shiraz however (the Southern hemisphere version of Syrah) but a Shiraz has a totally different aromatic profile, which in most case does not really fit with anything. The other grapes you can look for could be Carignan, Mourvèdre, Grenache, Malbec, Nebbiolo, Primitivo, Tempranillo and some specific Pinot Noir. So, this being considered, here is my shortlist. Other wines are possible, feel free to ask. In the next lines, I will comment on these wines.
1 : ALAMOS MALBEC is a fresh and light version of Malbec. Simple, not too powerful and with lots of fruit. It is easy and will fit decently.
2 : NORTON BARREL SELECT MALBEC is an other Malbec from Argentina. Slightly softer, it is also more oaky. These two are really good value for money wines.
3 : KAIKEN MALBEC is a much stronger wine. Much more ripe, lots more oaky. If you look for power, this will be a good option.
4 : NORTON PRIVADA 2009 is the one of the top wines in Norton’s range of product. A blend that will bring more complexity and more balanced. Definitely a better pick with lamb.
Overall, the Argentinean wines are maybe not the best pick for Easter but they will be a good compromise if you don’t want to spend too much money.
5 : JIM BARRY THE LODGE HILL SHIRAZ 2009 : Don’t get mistaken, this is a very powerful Shiraz. But among all of them, this is one of the better made. If your lamb is strong in taste with strong sauce, this will fit. Otherwise, it is a very ripe, very round wine.
6 : K1 PINOT NOIR 2008 : Pinot Noir should not be a good match but there are exceptions. This one will be a good match because of its fruit and spiciness… and there is a bit of Syrah blended with the Pinot. For that matter I question their calling it Pinot Noir… but one must say it is a good wine.
7 : YALUMBA SHIRAZ-VIOGNIER 2008 : The Australian version of Côte Rôtie. Full bodied, full flavoured. A big wine. Will need to be open a bit before, more or less 4 hours, just uncorked with a glass taken off (to check it, for instance ;)).
Usually I find Australian wines too powerful and too ripe. However, there are very nice and well made wines. I will be a good pick if you look for power and generosity.
8 : ESCUDO ROJO 2009 is one of the best vintage of this wine I ever tasted. It is truely great. You will have fruit and spiciness. Right now, the Syrah is dominant, which makes it a perfect match to lamb. This wine is to be cellared so don’t hesitate to buy 3 or 4 bottles to let them age. Beware of the vintage as 2008 is not half of the wine in 2009.
9 : LEYDA LAS BRISAS PINOT NOIR 2010 is a wonderful pinot noir. Very spicy, with fruit and earthiness. This will be the good match if you look for something softer, easier. I highly recommend this wine. It needs also time to breathe so you can open it a couple of hours before. Same procedure: you uncork, take 5cl away and leave it in a not too warm place. You can also place the bottle 30 min in the fridge to lose a few degrees.
The Chilean wines give maybe the most reliable quality for this dish. If you aim at a less than 15€ wine, I cannot imagine a better match than Escudo Rojo or Las Brisas.
10 : MARQUES DE LA CONCORDIA 2007, simple, generous wine. A good value for money. Be careful, this is well made but this is extremely oaky: vanilla, coconut, chocolate…
11 : PETALOS 2009. Made from the local grape Mencia. It has much in common with Syrah, especially the peppery and the herbs side. A very elegant wine with nice acidity and no oak. Very classical.
12 : AALTO 2007 is without any doubt the best wine of Alko general selection. This is big, but this is young. Total elegance and very delicate. It requires lots of air so you must open it 12 to 20 hours prior tasting. Same as the others: uncork, take 5cl away and leave it in a not too warm place (the cellar or the coldest place of your house), bring it back on the table one to three hours before tasting, depending how cold the bottle is.
Spain offers two of the best picks with lamb. Both Petalos and Aalto will work perfectly. I love Aalto 2007 but it is very young. Do not hesitate to store it for 5 years.
13 : SALICE SALENTINO NERO 2007 is a bargain. One of the only less than 8€ I would recommend.
14 : CA’ BIANCA, ANTE 2009. If you don’t know Barbera, it is a good way to get in touch. Very easy drinking, elegant. Only problem is that there is a quite big difference between bottles.
15 : ANGELINI, TRE ROSE 2009. Standard easy and spicy wine.
16 : GIACOSA FRATELLI BARBARESCO 2007 is not the best vintage ever but the wine are ready to dring now (which is not the case with 2006). Nebbiolo is a grape with strength and delicateness like Syrah. An interesting wine to discover Barbaresco, though it is far from the best examples from the region.
17 : FEUDI DI SAN GREGORIO TAURASI 2006 is a fantastic wine made from Aglianico, a local grape of Campania. Savage and yet fruity. This is huge!… if you can find it, only a few bottle left in Finland (check Alko site to know where to find them).
Italia will bring wine that will be elegant and not over ripe, therefore often a good match to lamb.
18 : CORTELLO ARRAGONEZ 2009. Very close to Syrah and very cheap. Interesting wine.
19 : CARM 2010 is more fruity and better made. A good possibility.
Portugal must always be considered. The style is a mix between Italy and Spain. Very good value for money.
20 : CHATEAU PECH-LATT 2010 : more sun and more fruit, a hint of aromatic herbs. Will need 4h-6h opening.
21 : LA CIBOISE 2010. A standard wine from Rhône valley. Highly dominated by Syrah. Evident match.
22 : HAUT-MONTPLAISIR 2008, a Malbec from France. Very fresh and very balanced. Can be opened a few hours before.
French wine are supposed to match very well with lamb, especially the Syrah. Unfortunately the selection of French wine is far from being satisfactory… difficult to find good match but these three will fit.
23 : JACKSON ESTATE, VINTAGE WIDOW PINOT NOIR 2010. Beware that both 2009 and 2010 are on sale right now. 2010 is much better. This Pinot Noir smell like Syrah and lamb sold in Finland is mostly from New-Zealand… self evident pairing 🙂 If you find 2009, just open it when you will drink. If it is 2010, open it 4h before.