Do you have a favorite lamb shank wine? Last weekend we cooked a fantastic braised lamb shank seasoned with coriander, fennel, and star anise (recipe coming on Friday) and needed a fine wine to compliment these complex flavors. The recipe suggested either a Châteauneuf-du-Pape or a Gigondas. We had picked up a Gigondas last fall after reading a Wall Street Journal article singing the praises of this region. In the article, Les Palliers was highlighted as a well rated wine and a good value for the type. Fortunately, we were able to purchase this one online from Surdyk’s for $28.99.
I uncorked this wine and ran it through a Venturi into my decanter to give it a maximum breathe. Indeed, I let it decant for over two hours and yet after all that could detect little bouquet. Once poured it let off little more than a smell akin to rubbing alcohol. The first taste was acidic and astringent- causing a slight pucker. I know- you are thinking “Where is the redeeming side of this wine?” It is precisely this acidity that makes the wine a stand out. With the lamb it became more vibrant and piquant, unloading waves of acidity and flavor that cleansed the palate and radiated warmth. This wine is more like an instrument for food than a drink and that is exactly what made it interesting. There was hardly any sense of fruit-just acidity. While I realize this style is not for everyone I think it can be a great tool to highlight a braised meat dish, steak au pauve, or a grilled rib eye.
While I will probably explore more Châteauneuf-du-Papes before buying another Gigondas, the Rhone region is an area that interests me greatly. I found this to be an excellent French food wine that can really brighten a winter meal. I wonder if age would mellow the heat of the alcohol and soften and integrate the flavors. This wine would be unenjoyable without an appropriate food pairing. In a series of food courses paired with wine this Gigondas would stand out for the distinct vibrancy it possesses and be quite enjoyable contrasted with other wine varietals during the meal.