Suburban Wino 2: The Wordpress Experiment

Classic Pairings 103: Syrah-lence of the Lamb | January 27, 2010


PETA advocates, raw foodists, and vegans need not apply. As Bourdain often says [paraphrased], “if you’re slower than me, dumber than me, and tasty, then you’re fair game.”

No truer statement could be made about the glory that is lamb. And while I’m not here to argue the land speed record of a galloping lamb or challenge said beast to a spirited game of Trivial Pursuit, I can say with full, experienced confidence that it is mighty delicious…

…okay, no more defending the virtues of eating red meat. It just seems…well, a little creepy. Seriously, I’m starting to feel like Jame Gumb over here (better know as Silence of the Lambs“Buffalo Bill”). “Would you eat lamb? I’d eat lamb…” (somewhere faintly in the distance, I think I hear Q Lazzarus “Goodbye Horses”).
We’re derailing. Focus, Joe! Anyway, there’s something about lamb: the richness of the red meat, the slight gaminess lent to it from the presence of lanolin; it can stand up to just about anything. Then, slather the lamb (in this case, the tender but more affordable leg) in herbs, garlic, and spices, roast it to a crusty exterior in the now-infamous Showtime Rotisserie, and it just begs for a table on a cold winter’s night, paired with a wine equal in robustness and machismo.

Syrah (otherwise known as “Shiraz” in parts of the New World, especially Australia) is a wine dominated by complex bouquet, intense flavors, massive tannins, and- at times- absurd alcohol levels that shame Hannibal Lector’s wimpy Chianti and overpower those outmatched fava beans.

My victim- er- wine choice for this pairing was a 2004 E. Guigal Crozes-Hermitage. This AOC in the Northern Rhône Valley of France (a Syrah hotspot) is know for wines that are complex, elegant, powerful, and yet more approachable in youth than big shot neighbors Hermitage, Cornas, and Côte Rotie. Furthermore, at a very reasonable 12.5% ABV, I had confidence this bottle would work well with food, rather than suffocate it with alcohol (and I’ve had Aussie Shiraz at 16%+).
Bottom line: the wicked nose of pepper, smoke, flowers (perhaps violets, but I don’t exactly know what a violet smells like…it was floral, okay?), plums, blackberries, and meat- yes, roasted meat, progressed into a mouth-filling flavor of fruit, herbs, and more pepper. The tannins (which usually dries your mouth out and/or makes it feel “fuzzy”) were pretty smooth. What pleased me the most was the good dose of acidity, giving the juice freshness, and making my mouth water for food…

…in particular, lamb fat. Yeah, the meat was good…medium-rare, juicy, flavorful; the crust of black pepper and crushed garlic and sea salt and Herbes de Provence got busy in a PG-13 sorta way with the herbal, peppery nuances of the wine. But all those smooth tannins and acidity just CRUSHED with the melt-in-your-mouth, velvety veneer of lamb fat (and we’re talking R-rated plus, folks). Perhaps you just had to be there. The richness of the lamb, the spices, and the all-of-the-above of the Crozes. Man, this might’ve been the best food/wine pairing in the universe.
So, to try and sum this up: Syrah and Lamb are a classic pairings for reasons that can barely be defined by words. You just have to go try this one. Come on over…I’ll cook it all again. I don’t care about lotion in the basket. I don’t care if you’re a size fourteen. I just want you to experience this combination. Yes, it may be an obsession, but it’s probably not one that will land me as a character in a disturbing movie.
Speaking of disturbing movies, check this out (actually, I have to boast that I think this is my best work yet. Cheers!):

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