Match of the week | Grilled lamb chops and ‘orange’ wine

Match of the week

Grilled lamb chops and ‘orange’ wine

One of the most striking things I’ve noticed during my few days in Rome this past week is how white wine seems a better match for the local food than red does. Even with red meat like lamb? Strangely, yes.

Of course I’m not talking about the largely bland local Frascati (of which there seems to be a curious dearth on wine lists) or many of the lamb-based offal dishes, come to that but the simple fried lamb chops we had at a neighbourhood restaurant called Da Cesare al Casaletto to which I was taken by local wine expert Hande Leimer (aka vinoroma*) and her husband Theo.

The wine, which was suggested by Hande, was an extraordinary ‘orange’** wine called Agano Emilia from La Stoppa in Emilia-Romagna made mainly from Malvasia Aromatico blended with Ortruga and Trebbiano. Even more surprising it came from the 2007 vintage yet was still astonishingly fresh. I’m not mad about orange wines as a rule but this was so seductively scented every sip was a pleasure.

It also paired particularly well with a speciality of the restaurant - gnocchi with a cacio e pepe (cheese and pepper) sauce and with an impeccable rigatoni carbonara. In fact it rubbed along with pretty well everything.

It’s not the first time I’ve found white wine works with lamb - sharp Greek whites like Assyrtiko are great with lamb kebabs for example - but it’s undoubtedly the most unusual pairing. As always wine matches depend on the way you handle the central ingredient.

*Hande runs wine tastings for visitors to Rome - you can see details on her website.

** orange wine is a wine made from white wine grapes using methods more akin to red winemaking including extended skin contact which gives the wine its orange colour

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