Katherine Donnelly: Go Spanish for a taste of spring
It's spring lamb time again and a seasonal reminder to reach for an old favourite, Rioja, or another version of the grape with which it is synonymous, Tempranillo.
Not that Tempranillo isn't acceptable all year round, but it's a particularly apt match for lamb. In Rioja country, they grill the darlings sprinkled with herbs and pour a glass.
Apart from its sweet red-berry flavours, Tempranillo has soft tannins, so it works well with the succulent, delicate flavours of the meat.
The wine will have spent varying degrees of time in a barrel. But some Riojas have far too much oak for me, so it can be worth casting an eye around other Spanish regions, such as Jumilla, Navarra, Ribera del Duero, La Mancha, for the same grape, although it's sometimes called Tinto Fino and Cencibel. Or try Portugal, where it is known as Tinto Roriz or Aragonez.
Another classic new lamb match is the Bordeaux blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.
Take two wines
La Montesa 2006 — supple and medium-bodied, with more Garnacha than Tempranillo; a purity of flavour reminiscent of dark-red berries/black cherries. 14pc alc. €16-€19 Available from Jus de Vin, Portmarnock; Ardkeen Superstores, Waterford City; Le Caveau, Kilkenny; Sweeneys, Glasnevin; O’Driscolls, Cork City.
Sierra Cantabria Rioja 2007 — a great concentration of brambly fruit interlaced with notes of tobacco. Medium-bodied and smooth, with light oak. A treat with lamb. 13.5pc. €11.49 Available from O’Briens.