Tempranillo and Pinot Noir | Rack of Lamb

Rack of lamb with Pinot Noir pairing
Photo by Con Paulos

Tempranillo was once thought to be related to Pinot Noir. While these wines are very different, aged examples can be exceptionally elegant, exhibiting deep berry-cherry fruit and an earthy, animal character. Tempranillo is most closely associated with the Spanish regions of Ribera del Duero and Rioja, while Pinot Noir is linked with Burgundy.

From our dream cellar:

Bodegas Alejandro Fernandez 1982 Tinto Pesquera Reserva (Ribera del Duero)
Domaine Emmanuel Rouget 1999 Echézeaux

Rack of lamb is a breeze to cook—much easier than the individual chops—and an irresistible sight on the dinner table. Lamb is often paired with “gamy” wines, but Tempranillo and Pinot Noir are less likely to overpower the lamb’s flavor. A traditional pairing in Ribera del Duero is with lechazo, suckling lamb roasted over vine cuttings.

“Frenching” refers to the butcher removing meat from the ends of the bones to create a handle of sorts for each chop. For this recipe, it’s optional and based on what look you prefer.

For Special Bottles, Pair the Food to the Wine
  • 1 full rack of lamb (8 rib chops)
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
  • 3 tablespoons fresh parsley
  • 1 tablespoon fresh mint
  • 1 teaspoon fresh rosemary
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

Preheat oven to 375˚F. Sprinkle lamb with salt and let sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes. While lamb sits, pulse the garlic and herbs in a small food processor until a coarse purée (or crush together in a mortar and pestle).

Heat a large cast-iron (or other heavy ovenproof) skillet over medium-high heat. Coat bottom of the pan with oil, and sear the broad parts of the lamb until deeply colored, about 2–3 minutes each side (don’t sear the exposed meaty ends).

Turn off burner and position lamb with bones facing down, so the meatiest parts are elevated from the pan surface. Coat all the exposed parts (except the bones) with the herb mixture and transfer to oven. Cook until an instant-read meat thermometer inserted in the center of the rack reads 130˚F for medium rare (start checking after 15 minutes).

Transfer to a cutting board, cover loosely with foil, and let rest 10 minutes before transferring to a serving platter. To serve, cut into double-chop portions. Serves 4.

Published on January 17, 2017
About the Author
Nils Bernstein
Contributing Editor, Food

A fan of sweet wines, sour beers, and old-school Rioja, Bernstein is an exhaustive traveler in search of new and unsung chefs and restaurants, innovative wine and food pairings, and eating and drinking at the source. In addition to Wine Enthusiast, Bernstein has written for Bon Appetit, Men’s Journal, New York Times, Men’s Fitness, Hemispheres, and Kinfolk, among others.

Email: nbernstein@wineenthusiast.net

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