IT feels as if I’ve been waiting for Spring to spring for, well, ever since the clocks went back last autumn.
Now it’s here I’ll be greeting it with one of my favourite roast dinners, Spring lamb.
With Easter just around the corner next week, I’m thinking about wines you could have with a succulent rosemary studded, or garlic infused, pinkly-tempting slice of lamb.
Whether it’s roasted or slowly braised in wine, the choice to drink with lamb has to be a red.
I like a bit on the side – in the gastronomic sense – redcurrant jelly and apple and mint jelly being two favourites with lamb, as well as mint sauce.
So finding a wine that goes with those acidic flavours as well as the meat can be tricky.
Aldi’s Exquisite Collection South Eastern Australia Shiraz (£5.99) scores well in the lamb taste test – it has a big fruity nose and fresh fruit flavours combined with a hint of spice and dark chocolate that give it depth.
It more than holds its own against the assorted condiments – a great value wine.
By far one of the best choices for lamb has to be a Spanish rioja – or how about Minarete Ribera Del Duero, (£5.49, also Aldi) from its wine region neighbour.
Aldi is setting some terrific standards for good wines at great value, and here’s another. The vines growing the Tempranillo grape for this wine are 50 years old, and the wine is layered with cherries and red fruits.
It is soft and supple, fresh and moreish. At this price, maybe one wine bottle to braise some lamb – another to drink as you eat it? Just a thought. To a couple of wines from the warmth of southern France, full-bodied and shouting out “spring!” from the sun-dappled rooftops. We can but dream. Chateau Sainte Eulalie, Plaisir d’Eulalie Minervois, 2011 (£8.70, www.tanners-wines.co.uk) is a blend of carignan and syrah along with fruity-rich no-holds-barred grenache. The grapes for this wine did their “growing up” on pebbly south-facing slopes in the Languedoc and jammy fruit, spicy cherries and moderately high acidity combine to say “drink me, drink me” with herb-crusted grilled lamb.
Domaine de Villemajou Gérard Bertrand, Corbières Boutenac 2010 (Majestic, £14.99, buy two bottles, save £6 until April 29) is another sun-soaked blend of carignan, syrah and grenache and benefits from a few hours opening before reaching its drinking best. The peppery notes reminded me of a crispy, barbecued-tinged Cumberland sausage but marinaded in not-too-sweet but very fruity blackberry jam.
Work that one out.
The crispy edges of lamb, you know, the fatty scrunchy bits, and a glug of this wine. Lovely.
Also in my glass ... Piccini Orange Label Chianti 2011 (RRP £7.99 at Morrisons and Sainsbury).
I had the simplest of suppers, pasta tossed with onion, tomatoes and freshly-torn basil.
Not exactly Masterchef but quick enough when time needs to be devoted to writing a wine column. Traditional sangiovese and up to 5% of ciliegiolo make up the blend of this chianti which has ripe red fruit and soft tannins. It was a decent example of chianti on its own, but raised its game with the bowl of Italian food with a sprinkling of parmesan.
It should also match well with a quickly grilled lamb cutlet.