Wine: A pairing worthy of protection
Published 27/03/2010 | 05:00
When a region has a protected name for both its wine and its lamb, it's about as three-star a dinner party double as you can get.
In the highly stratified Bordeaux wine hierarchy, Pauillac AC is firmly top drawer.
At the very pinnacle of the Bordeaux tree, and from a number of distinct regions within it, there are five of what are called first growths (followed by second, third, fourth and fifth growths, before you even start on the wines that most of us can afford). The familiar Chateau Lynch Bages is a fifth growth.
Three of those five first growths, chateaux Latour, Lafite and Mouton Rothschild are within the confines of the wine-producing area, Pauillac AC, which has the reputation for giving the most powerful expression, with elegance, of Cabernet Sauvignon anywhere. Pauillac wines are renowned for their rich blackcurrant character and other Cabernet traits such as cigar box and cedar.
While Cabernet is the dominant grape in Pauillac, as a classic Bordeaux red, it is a blend, the other main variety being Merlot.
In the same way as the AC system gives guarantees about the origin and production methods of French wines, the EU has awarded protected status to the Pauillac name for a delicately flavoured, milk-fed lamb reared in the area, from a tradition dating back hundreds of years.
So, as Easter approaches and thoughts turn to spring lamb, a well-chosen Pauillac is about as perfect a wine partner as you may get. If Pauillac is normally out of the reach of your pocket, check for local bargains, or a chateau-less label on this page.
Not only Pauillac, but red Bordeaux generally is a good choice for lamb, the structure of Cabernet Sauvignon combining with Merlot's plumminess to provide a complementary firm succulence.
Not only in Bordeaux, the marriage of Cabernet Sauvignon-Merlot is pretty universal. Think Australia, often with more minty nuances.
Grown outside Bordeaux, in sunnier climes, Cabernet Sauvignon can be ripe and full-bodied enough not to need Merlot's fleshiness, and is just as good with lamb all on its own.
The other big favourite for lamb is Tempranillo, the grape of Rioja and other Spanish reds such as Navarra and Ribera del Duero.
Or, venture across the border to Portugal, where Tempranillo, takes on a more savoury, sometimes balsamic, edge, going by the name Tinta Roriz in the Douro, or Aragonez in Alentejo further south.