By Dan Dunn
When it comes to communal celebratory meals, lamb is fitting for these festive final weeks of the nothing-if-not-extraordinarily interesting year that was 2017. There are many different ways to prepare lamb — from grilling to braising to roasting — but no matter how it’s cooked, that rich, savory meat demands robust red wine at its side, most often Bordeaux, Burgundy, or Cabernet Sauvignon. We asked five of America’s most sagacious sommeliers to name their ideal sheep sidekicks.
Gaja 2011 Langhe Sperss
“A good friend of mine taught me many years ago to love something for what it is, not what you want it to be,” says Chris Struck. It’s a lesson he revisits often on the job as a sommelier at Union Square Café in New York City. “You can’t ask or expect a wine producer who unapologetically makes a modern style to make a traditional style, nor can you compare the two in the same category. They’re like apples and oranges.” For an ideal wine to pair with a rack of lamb, Struck suggests the former (modern, not apples). Gaja is a legendary Piedmontese producer that has been making big, bold and brooding Nebbiolos like this Gaja Langhe Sperss 2011 ($250) in Italy’s Langhe region for 150 years.
“Nebbiolo offers an ideal tannic structure for red meat prepared on the rarer side,” says Struck. “With this particular wine, the myriad aromas—roses, leather, cherry, mushroom, and anise— are fun to play around with against the gaminess, herb, and mustard components often employed in the preparation of lamb dishes.” You’ll want to double decant this wine hours in advance. One could argue this wine needs time—and it does—so buy a case instead of a bottle.
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