The 5 Best Wine Pairings for Easter Lamb

Lamb is traditionally–and symbolically–the main dish at Easter dinner. I like it so much, I cook it all year long. But, according to a survey by the American Lamb Board, almost 40% of Americans have never tasted this luscious cut of meat. If you’re one of them, this is the season to try it, along with some beautiful red wines. Younger (spring!) lambs taste milder and less gamey, but still deliver a richness that rivals steak. That makes the meat ideal for dry, fruit-forward red wines.

Traditionally, lamb shares the table with red Bordeaux, Burgundy, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Cotes du Rhone. Those familiar varieties are tried-and-true pairings, but I’d encourage you to try the lesser-known–and truly delicious–options here:

1. Grilled Marinated Leg of Lamb with Terrazas de los Andes ‘Afincado Single Vineyard Malbec,’ Las Compuertas, Argentina, 2009

Grilling a boneless leg of lamb is the way to go if you’re trying this cut for the first time (or even if youre not!). The meat develops a tasty charred crust, and outdoor cooking lets you enjoy spring while keeping your kitchen spotless. This Malbec echoes that smokiness in its aroma and taste because it’s been aged in oak. It balances deep plum and blackberry notes with a complex acidity that cuts through the richness of lamb. This wine comes from Argentina, the land of fantastic grilled meats, so it works well with just about anything cooked over fire.

2. Arugula-Stuffed Leg of Lamb with Roasted Spring Vegetables with Cloudy Bay Te Wahi Pinot Noir, New Zealand, 2011 The 5 Best Wine Pairings for Easter Lamb

I buy my (affordable!) boneless leg of lamb from a big-box store that sources its meat from New Zealand. It’s not surprising, then, that a Pinot Noir from the same region tastes great with this roasted dish. Because the lamb is already sold boneless, it’s easy to stuff and roll into this showstopping centerpiece. The hints of sour cherry in the wine complement both the roast and the accompanying spring vegetables.

3. Anchovy and Rosemary Roasted Lamb with La Rioja Alta Vina Alberdi Reserva Tempranillo, La Rioja Alta, 2006

A roasted bone-in leg of lamb stays extra juicy and looks impressive on the Easter table. The anchovies in this dish don’t overwhelm; they bring a nuanced savory depth to the classic garlic-rosemary combination. I first tasted lamb and anchovies together in a dish at New York City’s Txikito Restaurant, where they paired the tapa with this versatile Tempranillo. Its welcome acidity with hints of berries and balsamic and supple tannins complemented both the fish and red meat. Plus, the silky mouthfeel made it a pleasure to drink long after I stopped eating.

4. Herb Roasted Lamb Chops with Alvaro Castro Tinto, DAC, Dao, Portugal, 2011

These loin chops cook quickly and are enhanced by a simple garlic-herb rub. To match the light, clean flavors of this dish, I turn to Portugal’s Dao region. This wine’s black raspberry aroma and pronounced spices pair well with the thyme and rosemary in the lamb. This elegant red blend tastes of springtime violets and its bright character would be ideal at brunch or a midday meal.

5. Olive-Crusted Rack of Lamb with Jamsheed Warner Vineyard Syrah, Beechworth, Australia, 2011

Rack of lamb is always a treat. Add an olive crust and it becomes as refined as a restaurant dish. The briny crunch of the crust fuses into the tender meat and smells phenomenal coming out of the oven. A similar meaty olive scent comes through in this intensely spicy Syrah. It’s a wine with big flavors–black pepper, black fruits–and it handles the intense savory elements of this dish perfectly.

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