What Drink Should You Serve With Lamb Chops?

lamb chops on plate
lamb chops on plate - Grandriver/Getty Images

Lamb is one of those incredible proteins that tastes like it would be much more complicated to prepare than it is. Gamey and grassy with a slightly sweet finish, any recipe that calls for lamb is sure to be teeming with flavor. But in the same way spicy food can make bad wine taste better, a well-chosen wine pairing can make a good lamb chop taste better still. There are plenty of reds that work to accentuate the natural earthy taste of lamb, but few do a better job than a southern Côtes du Rhône red.

Produced in the Rhône Valley in southeast France, the majority of Côtes du Rhône wines from the southern part of the region are red blends. While they can be made from 21 different grape varieties, three typically dominate: Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvèdre. With these three at the forefront, southern Côtes du Rhônes tend to be jammy, spicy, and rich. The deep fruity notes and herbaceous qualities are given by the Grenache grapes, which mirror the flavors of the wild rosemary, thyme, and lavender that grow in abundance in the Rhône Valley. Lamb dishes — like this Rosemary-Grilled Lamb Chop recipe — often include these potent and aromatic herbs because they hold their own against the robust flavor of lamb. The same is true of their presence in Côtes du Rhône wine.

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Gamey Meat Meets Gamey Wine

red wine in decanter
red wine in decanter - Fcafotodigital/Getty Images

Although Grenache grapes dominate southern Côtes du Rhônes, most also contain Syrah grapes, which are known for being acidic and peppery with hints of meat and smoke. That profile tends to work well with the smokiness of grilled lamb. A Côtes du Rhône made with a higher percentage of Syrah grapes can also be a nice fit for lamb prepared with fuller-flavored spices like cumin. The Mourvèdre grapes, which take on a fruity and gamey flavor, are balanced out by the Grenache and Syrah. When paired with earthy lamb, however, their presence makes for a perfectly smoky bite at the back of the palette.

In sunny southern Côtes du Rhône, grapes tend to ripen more fully. As a result, the alcohol content of the wine is typically higher. This is another reason you should be serving Côtes du Rhône with your lamb. Because lamb chops have marbled fat that makes them rich in meaty flavor, a wine with more acidity and a higher alcohol content is softened by the woodsy flavors of a Simple Smoked Lamb Chops recipe. The next time you serve lamb in any form, pairing the dish with a southern Côtes du Rhône red wine will show that you have earned your culinary chops.

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