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Acclaimed Wine Expert Karen MacNeil Reveals
Why American Lamb and Wine are a Sensational Marriage
While countless home cooks and chefs have already discovered the wonderful versatility and pure, mild, delicious flavor of American Lamb, thereâ€™s another reason to enjoy lamb. According to wine expert Karen MacNeil, author of the best-selling book The Wine Bible (Workman Publishing), American Lamb is the perfect all-around meat for wine. â€œAmerican Lamb is the quintessential accompaniment for a wide variety of wines from around the worldâ€”reds, whites and roses,â€ says MacNeil. â€œA glass of great wine brings out lambâ€™s succulent, mild, meaty flavor and makes it even more irresistible.â€
Is There a â€œBest Wineâ€ for Lamb Today?
Yes. The one you are planning to drink. â€œAs someone who cooks with American Lamb all the time and who tastes about 3,000 wines a year, I can attest to the fact that lamb goes with a surprising number of wine styles and varieties of wine,â€ says MacNeil. The exact wine she chooses depends on the cut of the lamb and how itâ€™s prepared.
For example, with American Lamb stews and slow-braised dishes such as shanks, MacNeil loves a saturated rich Shiraz. With a seared American rack of lamb, she chooses a well-structured cabernet sauvignon or merlot. White wines and roses are great partners too. When MacNeil incorporates lamb into salads, she loves to serve sauvignon blanc. And in summer with grilled lamb and vegetable kebobs, sheâ€™ll serve a well-chilled dry rose.
â€œMatching wine and food is about creativity and common sense,â€ she says. â€œPeople who pair wine and food together donâ€™t have a set of rules as much as they have good instincts,â€ says MacNeil. â€œItâ€™s more of an art than science. Itâ€™s also a matter of paying attention to the principles that emerge when drinking different kinds of wines with a given dish.â€
The History of Lamb and Wine
The practice of pairing lamb and wine is actually quite historic. In fact, European traditions can provide inspiration for the modern matching of American Lamb and wine. â€œThroughout Europe, the affinity between lamb and wine is centuries old,â€ explains MacNeil. The reasons, she says, are two-fold. â€œFirst, with availability from the easternmost islands of Greece to the westernmost coasts of France, Spain, and Portugal, lamb has historically been the most popular meat in the Mediterranean, the birthplace of wine. Consuming lamb and wine together was considered so utterly natural it was almost instinctive,â€ MacNeil states. â€œGrazing sheep and planting vineyards continue to be a European way of life. Thatâ€™s why so many of Europeâ€™s most famous wines are served alongside American Lamb in the United States. â€
Flavor has also played an important role. American Lambâ€™s remarkable flavor and succulent texture has traditionally lent itself to hundreds of different culinary interpretations and thousands of dishes based on numerous cuisines. According to MacNeil, American Lamb is well suited to an enormous range of wines from French Bordeaux to Spanish rioja to Italian Chianti.
â€œThere is something especially satisfying about the dynamic interaction between the rich flavors of lamb and wine,â€ says MacNeil. â€œA bite of lamb makes you want to take a sip of wine, and a sip of wine makes you want to take a bite of lamb. Itâ€™s the perfect seesaw.â€