The wettest April in 100 years and downpours aplenty. I was hoping as we head into the May Day bank holiday, I’m all for pulling out the zippy whites and fresh rosés. However, as I start writing my first word, the temperature is distinctly chilly and thoughts turn back to big, spicy and warming reds. So it may be spring but my wine of the month is going to be red, big and spicy and something that will be fabulous with lamb.
The classic matches for lamb are wines like red Bordeaux, particularly those dominated by Cabernet Sauvignon. Rioja is another option as are new world Cabernets. These wines work because they tend to be full of flavour, usually matured in oak and also have quite big tannins.
Many people think tannin is a dirty word and they don’t like the drying effect it has on the gums, but when paired with food, particularly red meat, tannins provide the balance and backbone of a wine and will appear much softer. Tannins come mostly from the grape skins which is why only red wines tend to give you that mouth-drying effect. For white wine production the juice gets separated from the skins as opposed to red wine making where the skins and the juice stay together to extract colour and tannins. Red wine will often feel fuller bodied and more structured than white because of this process.
For this month I’m opting for a little know variety called Petit Verdot. The grape is routinely used in Bordeaux as part of the blends, but always in very small quantities, a bit like you would use pepper and salt in a dish. It’s a very late ripening variety that has thick skins, which produces deep-coloured wines with a fair amount of, you guessed it, tannins. In Bordeaux it can sometimes struggle to ripen so you won’t come across any 100% Petit Verdot wines there. But in Australia achieving full ripeness isn’t an issue for Petit Verdot, and it is here we find some pretty impressive wines that provide a gorgeous balance between juicy fruit and a chunky structure, perfect for those meat feasts.
Barossa Valley Petit Verdot 2010 – Marks & Spencer – £9.99
M&S have recently invested a lot of time into jazzing up their range of new world wines, particularly those from New Zealand and Australia. And it’s not just the usual suspects when it comes to grape varieties, which is why I picked this Petit Verdot. It’s a fun wine, exuberant, juicy dark berry fruit that got a bit of taming from a year and a half in oak barrels. This one works extremely well with spring lamb, particularly if it is a bit spiced up and no matter what the weather brings us!
Written by Pieter Rosenthal.Last modified: December 31, 2020