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Article – Easter : Lamb, Chocolate & Wine

April 3rd, 2010

Hello Lovers of the Vine. We are in the holiest of weeks, and whatever your decision regarding rugby, alcohol or Good Friday, Easter offers a great excuse to trade up and enjoy the finer wines with your dinner. I myself will be closing the shop on Good Friday, as the law requires it, but I have always taken it handy on that day. I like to take a step back now and again, and that’s a great day to take stock. Of course it also means that I can spend a few more Euros at the weekend without any guilt. Being Catholic can often lend itself towards delayed gratification and the sweet taste that can so very often follow the sacrifice. With this in mind, and the recession clearly ignored, I am going to discuss wines to match two of Easter’s more popular delicacies – lamb and chocolate.

Let’s carve up the lamb first and this has some classic pairings that are already engrained in the wine vocabulary. There are a number of reasons for this. Going back thousands of years, to ancient Greece and into old France, Spain and Italy, the most popular meat was lamb. The sheep often grazed in the vineyards so the pairing was almost instinctive. Go to Greece (or even your local kebab shop) today and there is quite a lot of lamb on the menu. But add to this practicality, and the fact that the flavour of the lamb lends itself perfectly to wine. My mouth is watering as I write this, and I am not sure it is for the wine or for the lamb. It could also be that I was in Cork all day and was delayed getting back to the shop and had no lunch. A packet of peanuts might also make my mouth water at the moment. I digress again, and it is back to the lamb and in particular the wine to accompany it. I think it would depend on the cut of lamb and how it is prepared. If money is no object, then I would suggest a Pauillac from the Medoc region of Bordeaux. If your budget can’t stretch to a 1st growth Château Mouton Rothschild or even a 5th growth Lynch Bages, then there are plenty of substitutes. There are lots of really good value Bordeaux wines out there and it is the dry tannic nature of the Cabernet Sauvignon that reacts so well with the lamb. Many attest to the minty herbal nature of Cabernet with the grassiness of the lamb, and others think this is a load of rubbish. Pinot Noir tends to show off different sides of the lamb, so if it is not overly lean, I think the Pinot Noir can offer some great flavours. Regardless of the grape, one thing that seems to run true is that a chewier meat should be matched to a chewier wine, and by this I mean a younger tannic wine. The meat will make the wines seem smoother than they would be on their own. Other wines that go with Lamb for much the same reasons are Spanish Rioja’s and Italian Chianti or Sangiovese varieties. The really great news is that I have a huge selection of all of the above at all prices. We will be opening some of them this week. What is sure is that if you are looking to show your red wines at their best, be they Cabernet, Shiraz or Pinot Noir, match them with some lamb and you have a head start.

If you are not too pushed on your lamb, and would prefer to think about all that chocolate you gave up for Lent, then read on. If you gave up both chocolate and wine for Lent, then I am about to blow your mind. I am going to match chocolate and wine. I will give you a few minutes to gather yourself, and then we will begin. Are you ready? Many would argue that the two are incompatible. In fact one of the first things I was warned against eating before wine tasting was chocolate, along with garlic and mints. The idea was that the intense flavour of chocolate overwhelmed the wine. In this instance I am talking about real artisan concentrated chocolate, in much the same way as I always refer to handmade wine. At least with chocolate there is a brand association with quality. Because it is a controlled environment, and the weather doesn’t play a big role, you can mass produce great chocolate, unlike wine. The bad news for all you white wine drinkers is that chocolate prefers red wine. Unless it is something like a desert wine or IceWine, you will be looking at strong wines, with a lot of body, ideally, a bit of Cabernet for that minty undercurrent. This is much the same reason it goes with lamb, and as an interesting aside, why mint sauce is often served with lamb. You are looking for harmony and complimentary behaviour. It is the aftertaste in the chocolate that you are trying to stand up to, and you need this edge in the wine.

A perfect example is Chateau Paradis (Cabernet and Syrah), from Provence which was featured in the Irish Times last Saturday. There was a nice little piece on Red Nose Wine and Chateau Paradis, which was wine of the week. A fantastic wine for Easter and a real bargain at 15.50 a bottle. It will go with both the lamb and the chocolate. Was that a subtle plug or was it overly aggressive? The wine is ridiculously cheap for the quality, so I am confident to take the Pepsi challenge against other wines at that price.

I had a great time in Fethard last week. Thanks to all the committee members of the Acorn Childcare Committee for letting me talk about wine to a room full of 150 women. I learned all about the different shapes a woman can have at the fashion show. I think women are possibly as complex as wine. Tickets for the Wine tasting with Samuel Guibert on April 14th are really moving, so don’t be disappointed and book now – only 10 Euros for a chance to meet and taste with one of the great winemakers in France today.

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For anyone who would like more information and can’t make it into the shop, please feel free to contact me at

“Life is much too short to drink bad wine”

Red Nose Wine Article - Nationalist Apr 1 2010

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