Most mornings, I can be found, cutting a comical figure, in the countryside around Kirk Langley as I attempt to ‘power walk’ my way through nearly 5 miles of fields in under an hour. Unknowingly, over time, I have, in my attempts to beat my hour target, developed a full on “Minister of Silly Walks” marching gait that invites much mickey taking from those who’ve witnessed it – especially my children.
Never mind, as 80’s pop dandy, Adam Ant, sagely observed in one of his No.1 hits, “Ridicule is nothing to be scared of.” And the benefits of walking – eccentrically or not – are many and are best expressed by 19th century Danish philosopher, Søren Kierkegaard, “Everyday, I walk myself into a state of well-being & walk away from every illness. I have walked myself into my best thoughts, and I know of no thought so burdensome that one cannot walk away from it.”
Surprisingly, it was on a recent walk that I found the subject of today’s column staring me – quite literally – in the face. Normally, sheep turn and run as you approach but on this occasion a young lamb, as bold as brass, deliberately ran over to engage me in a face off before being backed up, ever so cautiously, by a few older sheep.
I can’t explain the young lamb’s distinctly uncharacteristic behaviour but I can recommend the best wines to go with lamb and that’s what I’d like to do today.
Lamb is an absolute godsend for red wine drinkers because it’s hard, with the exception of port and very light wines, to think of a red that doesn’t work with lamb.
The subtle flavours of rack of lamb are particularly well suited to an aged Cabernet Sauvignon and the Mount Horrocks Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 from the Clare Valley in southern Australia is a long standing favourite of mine.
Mount Horrocks Wines is owned by winemaker Stephanie Toole, who restricts production to approximately 4000 cases per annum in order to achieve her aims of quality and single vineyard expression. The 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon has aromas of generous red and black berry fruit with a touch of mint and anise, along with underlying gentle oak. It’s an incredibly stylish, soulful cabernet without any harsh tannins or green leaf characters. It’s all luxurious forest fruits, bright but gentle tannins and crisp acidity. It’s rounded, textured, long and fine in the mouth and full of flavour, yet in no way heavy.
If you prefer your lamb with lots of herbs and garlic or studded with anchovy and lemon peel, it’s best to look to the more rustic wines of the Rhône Valley in France for suitable pairings. A great Rhône wine that won’t break the bank is the Boutinot ‘Les Coteaux’, Côtes du Rhône Villages 2012. The wine possesses warming red berry and bramble fruit flavours that are underpinned by subtle oaky nuances and sweet spicy notes.
Once you get to slow cooked, flavoured roasts, or lamb shanks you need to think about acidity. These cuts have a high fat content, which the meat absorbs in the slow cooking process. The Italians are past masters at this and have long recognised how great the Nebbiolo grape is with these type of dishes. You could splash out on a Barolo but at less than half the price of a good Barolo, the Malvira Langhe Nebbiolo 2011 is superb value. The wine is precise and subtle with flavours of red fruit, rose, tobacco and spice.
Finally, for something really rustic like a rich lank shank stew with olives, I recommend Touriga Nacioncal from Portugal.