August 12, 2022 by Arden Montgomery

Best Wine for Lamb Shanks

Sheep preparations run the gamut of culinary possibilities. 

Shepherd’s Pie represents a humble and down-to-earth familial food beloved for centuries across rural farmlands. Classic legs of mutton conjure banquet halls of kings, where the unctuous cuts were always enjoyed alongside a stein of hearty ale or mead. Shawarma spits hold fast as a popular contemporary street food that’s perfect for a late-night snack (or a mid-afternoon hangover cure.) And delicate dishes of lamb invoke images of clean white plates, silver forks, and pristine table cloths. Today we’ll be focusing on this last and arguably most intimidating preparation of the popular and versatile meat.

Not everyone likes lamb shanks. And no mistake, this particular cut requires extra loving care during the cooking process to produce something tender and truly delicious. Plus, the uber-specific flavor it offers makes it tricky to find the right beverage to go with it – our usual strategy of “pair it with the sauce” is not the catch-all trick it can be with milder meats. But we’ve got a few ideas for lamb shank wine pairings that we think you’re gonna love. 

What the heck is a lamb shank?

The lamb shank is a particular cut of meat that comes from the lower aspect in the animal’s fore and hindlegs. Because this is a muscle that gets a lot of use during life, it can be a little tough if not cooked correctly. A large piece of connective tissue associated with this cut can contribute either chewiness or oodles of flavor depending on how the dish is prepared. 

The trick to unlocking all the grassy, fatty deliciousness the shank has to offer is typically a longer cook time with plenty of accompanying liquids. Braising is often recommended as the ideal method for getting this cut ready for your table. Popular flavorings for the final dish typically include vibrant aromatics like mint, garlic, rosemary, and cumin-based dressings which brighten and elevate the meat’s richness.

Best wine for lamb shanks

Deep, dark, and fruit-forward are adjectives you should be looking for in a lamb-friendly wine. This unctuous animal needs a partner as bold as itself to cut through the fat and add a touch of berry sweetness to the overall experience. The lamb itself promises to help out the wine, as well, as a coating of oil on your tongue helps to combat the bitterness of some tannin-heavy reds, letting you taste the bottle a bit more deeply. 

You’ll be hard-pressed to find a white wine that works really well with lamb, we’re sorry to say. Often, lighter whites like Pinot Grigios are simply overwhelmed by the lamb’s intensity. A grassy, herbaceous blanc can also bring out the grassy, gamey flavors in the meat which many find unpleasant. If only a glass-of-white-with-one-ice-cube will do, an especially rich Chardonnay might just do the trick. 

Here are a few bottles we recommend. 

  • 2020 Storm Santa Barbara County Pinot Noir – $45
    A fan favorite both in-house and among our patrons, this classic Pinot is a testament to California terroir. Sipping this red on a summer day feels like finding a patch of wild strawberries on the forest stroll: earthy and spicy, yet fresh and lively. Try with these rosemary braised lamb shanks.  
  • 2016 Domaine les Semelles de Vent Gigondas “Clos du Garde” – $36
    A Rhone Valley Grenache/Syrah is among the top recommendations for pairing with a slow-roasted lamb shank. So here’s ours! A distinct spice gifted to these organically-grown grapes through the soil is tempered on the tongue by dark fruit and just a hint of cocoa for a totally luxurious experience.  
  • 2018 Chateau des Antonins AOC Bordeaux Supérieur La Réserve du Couvent – $60
    The richness of a really good Bordeaux has this amazing softening effect on tougher preparations of the meat in question. Roast lamb with a tomato-based sauce will find its match in this bodacious left-bank blend. The smokiness of this wine’s particular palate makes us think a grilled shank wouldn’t go amiss.  
  • Sonoma Coast Syrah (half-bottle) – $40
    You might try cooking your lamb shank directly in this delicious wine, if you feel so called. The flavors it brings to the table – dark fruit, pepper, and game – create this magical parallel to some of the classic preparations of this particular cut. For a little bit of contrast, sip this coastal Syrah next to a dish of Persian spiced lamb shanks with mint and dill

Argaux’s offerings

Argaux’s blog is chock-full of delicious recipes, genres of cuisine, and the right wines to go with them. If you’re looking for inspiration for your next Persian inspired meal or exciting pesto preparations, head on over (and be sure to take notes!)

But the plate doesn’t always have to come before the bottle. Argaux’s inventory is stuffed with delicious small-batch wines that might just tell you what foods they’re for, once you’ve gotten to know them a little better. 

So bolster your palate and learn all there is to know about tasting wines like a pro with our Blind Tasting Kit. Or, if you’re a novice no longer, expand your palate geographically with Old World vs. New World tasting set, or travel kits including ‘Gaux To California, Italy, Champagne, and more. 

Or if you’re looking for something really, really specific, reach out to our in-house sommeliers and they’ll help you find it. 

Cheers!

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