What to DRINK With That : Baked Spring Leg of Lamb + Asparagus



What to DRINK with That : Baked Spring Leg of Lamb + Asparagus 

*Note – this column was originally published in the print edition of EAT Magazine, March 2011. 

DRINK editor Treve Ring, asks local wine experts how they would approach pairing dishes and flavours. In advance of Easter and to celebrate spring, we look at Baked Spring Leg of Lamb, plus one of the hardest foods of all time to pair – asparagus.


Our Experts:

Mark Shipway (MS)
Wine Program Department Head, International Culinary School
Mark is a displaced Englishman who upped sticks and moved to Vancouver six years ago because he heard it was nice and located in the only Canadian province with the word ’British’ in the title. Mark studied winemaking & viticulture at the University of Brighton as well taking the WSET Diploma in Wines & Spirits in which he graduated with honours in 1999. He currently works for International Culinary School where he administrates their award winning WSET wine program. Mark has been a regular judge for the UK’s premier International Wine & Spirit Competition and is also contributing writer.

Marc Morrison (MM)
Maître d’hôtel, Sommelier, Brasserie l’école
Marc was the first accredited sommelier in Victoria and brings to Brasserie l’école his passion and knowledge of wine and extensive serving and management experience. Marc’s concise, ever-changing wine program is crammed with value gems, and he’ll open any bottle in the restaurant if you buy 2 glasses. His cozy slip of a Brasserie is perennially packed, and it continues to be recognized internationally as one of the top restaurants, and best wine lists, in Victoria.

Sandra Oldfield (SO)
Winemaker and owner, Tinhorn Creek Winery
A native of California, Sandra Oldfield arrived at Tinhorn Creek from Santa Rosa, in time for the 1995 crush. Since then she has taken the production from 1,000 cases to more than 35,000 cases. She holds a master’s degree in Enology from UC Davis (plus Canadian citizenship as of October 2002)! Sandra, her husband Kenn Oldfield, and their daughter Melody live in a house perched at the top of the Tinhorn Creek winery vineyards.


What would you pair with Baked Spring Leg of Lamb with rosemary & garlic, green beans and roast potatoes.  

MS – This wine-friendly dish is a sommelier’s dream! Generally classic dishes like this one provide a perfect backdrop for classic fine wines from regions like Bordeaux or the northern Rhône. But let’s be a bit rad and go for something Greek (yes they do make great wines in Greece)! Greece’s round, fleshy Agiorgitiko grape (eye-your-yee-tee-ko) has the weight and structure to balance the roast lamb, and its savoury, herb-tinged flavours should echo the dishes seasonings nicely. Look for Nemea appellation on the label – there are a couple available in BC.

MM – Bordeaux or Bordeaux blend, preferably one with a large percentage of Cabernet Franc. I really like blends that have a high percentage of Cabernet Franc as I feel that grape’s floral characteristic would work well with the rosemary and garlic on the lamb. A straight Cabernet Franc would be too light on its own and needs the body provided by Cabernet Sauvignon and/or Merlot

SO – The lamb screams a Pinot noir pairing and I have always been partial to those made in the Russian River Valley area of California. The Pinots from this area as very fruit forward but they also have very complex flavours such as jam, spice and vanilla. These wines have good depth, and are warm and round – great to pair with a succulent roast spring leg of lamb.


BONUS question – what would you pair with Grilled Spring Asparagus with Butter, Lemon and Sea Salt?

MS – In contrast to the lamb, this dish is a much harder one to pair wine with, mainly because the vegetal, slightly bitter nature of asparagus is instant flavour clash material. When I think of lemon, sea salt and anything green, I instantly get images of the Mediterranean and the simple cucina of central & southern Italy. Italian whites are just made to drink with this kind of dish and my top choices would be a Verdicchio from the Marche or a Grillo from Sicily. Key elements are lightish body, refreshing acidity, clean citrus and herbal favours and no oak.

MM – Tough One. Asparagus is such a dangerous wine-food (like eggs and artichokes – I think it’s something about foods starting with vowels). I’ve been told that Chinon (a Loire valley red made from Cabernet Franc) pairs well but I think the dish screams for white. I would consider either an aromatic white, such as an Alsatian Gewurztraminer, or a crisp, clean Sauvignon Blanc. I would avoid anything with tannins or lots of oak.

SO – I Learned at UC Davis that asparagus is the most difficult food to pair wine with – so thanks for the challenge!  Almost no wine goes with asparagus, however you prepare it, but the best I have found is any crisp, unoaked Sauvignon Blanc.  My favourite come from Marlborough in New Zealand, and I am particularly fond of the Wither Hills. It really gets your mouth watering for a BBQ meal with grilled asparagus.

Written By:

Treve Ring is a wine writer, editor, judge, consultant and certified sommelier, and has been with EAT Magazine for over a decade.\r\n\r\nIn addition to her work with EAT, she is a Wine Critic and National Judge for ...

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