What to drink with lamb

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Farmison's herb-crusted rack of lamb

Farmison’s herb-crusted rack of lamb

We asked Adam Holden from our Wholesale team – a man equally at home in the cellar and kitchen – for his tips on matching wine with lamb. Our friends at Farmison, meanwhile, have prepared a recipe that would make a fine feast for two this Valentine’s Day

Lamb stands apart from the robust flavours of beef and richly unctuous textures of pork. It is an elegant treat for the carnivorous epicure – and no cut more so than the rack. There is an inherent sweetness and delicacy to this cut that demands careful consideration of its wine partner. To pair perfectly, the wine should have subtlety and grace. A little tannin is a must – particularly for the sweet, fatty crust – but the tannins should be silken. The fruit should have a hint of sweetness to it, and a certain grainy minerality should be present to bring some texture to the palate.

Rioja is often cited as the classic pairing for lamb, where Tempranillo’s bright strawberry fruit is a happy match and any oak-aging yields a softness to the structure, along with a sweet notion of clove and savoury vanilla. Pinot Noir in all its guises will also provide the goods, with is summer fruits and poise. Try a lively young Bourgogne Rouge or an irresistibly fruit-driven New Zealand example. Bordeaux should never be overlooked, with such variety and versatility; go for finesse rather than power, which means heading for appellations such as Margaux, Graves and the Right Bank’s St Emilion and Pomerol.

For this dish, I’ve selected our Extra Ordinary Claret made for us by Ch. Villa Bel Air. The sensational 2015 vintage has brought a wealth of ripe fruit to the wine, which enhances the sweetness of the lamb. Unusually for the Graves region, Merlot dominates the blend here which ensures a soft approach on the palate, with just enough texture to provide a foil for the fatty crust. While the Cabernet Sauvignon and a hint of oak provide welcome texture and savoury notes of tobacco and cedar to complement the umami of the anchovy in the dish.

Herb-crusted rack of heritage lamb with tenderstem broccoli and anchovy

Serves 2

  • 400g trimmed heritage rack of lamb
  • 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • Olive oil
  • Sea salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper
  • Knob of unsalted butter
  • 1 bunch tenderstem broccoli
  • 1 shallot – finely diced
  • 1 garlic clove – peeled and crushed
  • 6 salted anchovy fillets
  • ½ lemon – peel only

For the herb crust

  • 50g fresh white breadcrumbs
  • 10g grated Parmesan (optional)
  • Finely grated zest ½ lemon
  • Handful flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped
  • 1 sprig rosemary, leaves only
  • 3 sprigs thyme, leaves only
  • 20ml olive oil
  • Sea salt flakes & freshly ground black pepper

Pre-heat the oven to 200°C (180°C fan or gas mark 6), then make the herb crust by blending all the ingredients together to create a fine crumb.

Heat a little olive oil in an ovenproof frying pan. Season the lamb, then sear over a medium heat until nicely browned and turn off the heat.

Place the rack fat-side up in the pan and brush with a generous coating of Dijon mustard. Press the herb crumbs onto the mustard, then drizzle with a bit more oil.

Roast for 15 to 20 minutes, until the crust is golden and the lamb is cooked (to a core temperature of 58°C); if you prefer your lamb well-done, give it five minutes more. Remove from the oven and leave to rest for a few minutes in a warm place

While the lamb is roasting, trim the tenderstem broccoli and blanch it in boiling salted water for two minutes. When you drain it (keep the water for the next step), run it under the cold tap to ensure that the cooking process stops, then drain thoroughly and keep to one side.

Peel half a lemon and then finely slice the peel. Blanch the slices in salted water for two minutes, then sieve them out

Soften the shallot and garlic in butter over a medium heat. This shouldn’t take more than five minutes. Add the blanched broccoli and toss until fully heated through.

Carve the lamb into chops, cutting between the bones, and divide onto warm dinner plates. Finish with the broccoli, dressed with thin slivers of anchovy and lemon peel, a drizzle of olive oil and any crumbs that have fallen away from the lamb.

Try with: 2015 Berry Bros. & Rudd Extra Ordinary Claret by Ch. Villa Bel-Air, Graves, Bordeaux

We’ve partnered with Farmison, combining our wine and their meat in a selection of boxes designed for Valentine’s Day feasts: find out more here.