Story and photos by Manos Angelakis
Bottle shots by the producers
Wines to pair with Easter Lamb.
To celebrate Greek Easter we called again the “gang of the usual suspects” to have Easter lamb with us (see article in the Gastronomy section).
The question though was what wine to have with the lamb? I had no Greek red bottles left in my cellar (I believe the best pairing wines with a particular food are wines that are produced in the region the food originated) so I decided to stay classic and pair French reds with the leg of lamb. From the lamb article you will see that the meat is very savory with intense herbal tones of oregano, mint and garlic adding to the young lamb taste. The accompanying lemon potatoes are also very citrusy and garlicky.
Looking through my cellar, I found a producer that I thought made nice wines that would pair well with my lamb.
Michel Chapoutier’s Occultum Lapidem, is a blend of Syrah, Grenache and Carignan and, for some vintages, a touch of Mourvèdre, from 40 to 60 year old vines. It was, I thought, the right wine to pair with the lamb. It also helped in the decision the fact that I had a short vertical of 2013, 2014 and 2016, so I could compare the three vintages with food; plus there would be enough wine for all.
I opened the three bottles, decanted them and served them with the meat, after they had an hour or so to rest.
The vineyards and winery are located in Languedoc’s Côtes de Roussillon, specifically at Latour de France, inland and just north of Perpignan.
The wines were all juicy, full bodied reds, with firm tannins and notes of black raspberries, cassis, graphite and licorice appearing in the glass; these layered and beautifully textured reds are a good value, considering the quality vs. price. The 2016 especially, had a powerful palate and definitely needed more cellar time to develop to the wonderful level the 2013 had reached.
All things considered, I would rate the 2013 at 93/100 points, the 2014 at 90/100 and the 2016, once it has more cellar time could also reach 92/100 points – currently I would rate it at 89/100 points because of the intense tannins.
After the dinner I ended up with some tasty leftover meat.
We had finished all the Occultum Lapidem bottles with the meal and cheese afterwards, so back to the cellar the next evening for another wine that would work with the lamb. I remembered a 2014 crianza of Tinto Pesquera, a nice red wine that I had first tasted during my Douro cruise last year (see River of Gold article in Cruise & Sail). The Douro is the Portuguese section of the river valley known in Spain as Ribera del Duero. The valley starts in Spain, crosses the border into Portugal and the estuary is on Portugal’s Atlantic coast, near Oporto.
The wine is imported to the USA by Folio Fine Wine partners and is a well-priced beauty at $35 MSRP.
This is one of the best 100% Tempranillo wines that I’ve recently had; elegant and soft, with aromas of red fruit, dried plums, vanilla and nutmeg with hints of tobacco and licorice. Silky on the palate with velvety, well-rounded tannins. Aging is 18 months in American oak barrels and 6 months in the bottle, plus almost two more years in my cellar.
The wine is actually ready to drink upon purchase, but a short time of cellaring always helps. I would rate this at 91/100 points, and with some further cellaring could reach up to 92/100.
To your health!
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