Many foodies throughout the world favor lamb. Despite its varied preparations, rack of lamb is likely the most recognized, because of its impressive presentation. Marinades, jellies or sauces made with mint accent the rich flavor of this meat perfectly, whether it’s an entire rack or the individual chops. The best wine pairings for rack of lamb with mint will give a tasteful boost of complexity to this meal, rather than detract from the succulent, sweet and herbal flavors.
Wine Pairing Basics
The structure of wine is what creates its distinctive bouquet and flavor. The level of acidity, sweetness, alcohol — and tannins in the case of red wines — varies from wine to wine and determines which wines match with specific foods. While pairing red wine with red meat and white wine with poultry and seafood is a helpful rule of thumb, doing so won’t automatically elevate your meal. Some meals are more difficult to successfully pair with wine; lamb served with traditional mint sauce is one such dish. The menthol and vinegar inherent to this recipe simply don’t balance well with certain wines.
Red Wine with Lamb
Not all red wines share the same structure, but as a whole, red wines are more suited to lamb dishes than whites. The tannins in red wines create a dry sensation in the mouth, but eating foods high in protein with red wine softens the tannins and makes the wine smoother on your palate. A medium- or full-bodied red wine is always the best choice when you’re serving lamb, but not all wines with these characteristics automatically pair well with mint.
If you’re serving lamb with traditional vinegar-based mint sauce, pair it with cabernet sauvignon. The deep, fruity flavor and herbal undertones of cabernet hold their own alongside the distinct flavors of this meal, especially when you opt for a bottle from an older or oak-aged batch. The structure of a younger cabernet is still developing and might offer a less sophisticated balance.
Syrah wines possess a high level of tannins, which makes them a natural choice alongside lamb. Merlot, Carmenere or Bandol are appropriate pairings with traditional mint sauce, but if you plan to use store-bought mint jelly as a condiment with rack of lamb, a lighter, fruitier red wine such as pinot noir will provide the best balance for this significantly sweeter dish.
References and ResourcesThe Joy of Cooking; About Rack of Lamb; Irma von Starkloff Rombauer, Marion Rombauer Becker, Ethan Becker, Maria Guarnaschelli; 1931
WineAnswers.com: Grilled Lamb Chops with English Mint Sauce
California Wine Magazine: Pairing Advisor Presents Cabernet Sauvignon
Hello Vino: What Wine Goes with Lamb with Mint Pan Sauce?
Taste of the Vine Free Wine Courses: Food and Wine Pairing
Epicurious; Broiled Double-Thick Lamb Rib Chops with Slicked-Up Store-Bought Mint Jelly Sauce; Chris Schlesinger, John Willoughby; October 2002
ResourcesThe Worldwide Wine: Pairing Lamb with Wine
Wined In: Food & Wine Pairing Quick Reference Chart
Wined In: Lamb Roast with Mint Sauce
Epicurious; Roast Rack of Lamb with Mint Sauce; Bon Appetit; February 1996