Perfect Pairing – Malbec with Slow-Cooked Lamb Stew

Because of the slow cooking, the lamb practically melts in your mouth.  Which is reason enough to try it, but it also boasts an earthiness that I like with a good Argentinian Malbec.  One of the nice things about Malbecs from Argentina’s Mendoza region is their affordability.  But sadly, their quality is inconsistent, so be sure to confer with a trusted wine merchant for a recommendation before parting with the $20 or so you’ll need to find a good one.

Ingredients (Serves 6+)
 2 Lbs lamb shank
 10 small onions
 4 Cups water
 5 tomatoes – blanched, peeled and chopped (or one can organic chopped tomatoes)
 2 Sprigs fresh parsley
 2 Sprigs fresh thyme
 2 cloves garlic, chopped
 2 Bay leaves
 2 (15 Oz) cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
 1 pound cubed ham3 Sweet Italian sausages

Boil the lamb in the four cups of water until it’s falling-off-the-bone tender.  Remove from heat but RESERVE THE LAMB BROTH for later. Once the lamb has cooled, cut into bite-sized cubes/pieces.

Using a generous square of cheesecloth (photo), secure the parsley, thyme and bay leaf with kitchen twine, leaving a long leash on the garni, so you can easily pull it from the stew later.  Place the herb bundle, the lamb, ham, onions, tomato and garlic in a large saucepan over medium-high heat.  Add the reserved lamb broth and enough water to equal four cups. Bring to a boil and then reduce to low and simmer for an hour.

Meanwhile, remove the sausage meat from the casings and brown lightly, breaking up into fork-sized crumbles. Remove sausage from heat, drain off fat, and reserve.

Drain and rinse the beans and set aside.  After the stew has simmered for an hour, stir in the beans and sausage and continue to simmer for about 15 minutes, or more if you want a thicker consistency.

The deep flavors of this dish work very well with the tannin and fruitiness of the Malbec, both of which offer warm comfort on a winter evening.

Dave the Wine Merchant

Marvelous Malbec – Going the way of Merlot?

FS_Reserve_-_Malbec_2006_-_FrenteWednesday, January 28, 2009
This weekend's Wall Street Journal "Tastings" article featured the results of a Malbec tasting.  It could not have been more timely.  As it was being inked I was writing up a Malbec from Argentina for Monday's club shipment – the Finca Sophenia 2007 Reserver Malbec ($19).

This wine was selected for my club members for much the same reasons Dorothy Gaiter and John Brecher describe in their article – it provides an interesting change of pace at an affordable price.

Read their full article here - 

I think the most interesting aspect of their article is that, while the varietal is enjoying a rapid ascent in popularity, they found many samples to be quite unpleasant.  This is exactly what earned Merlot such vehement opposition from wine geek Miles Raymond in the movie Sideways – every grower and winemaker wanted in on the action and began planting Merlot vines in inappropriate places, and/or over-cropped the hell out of the vines, resulting in large quantities of uninteresting wines. 

Great winegrowers will tell you – over and over again, if you let them – that great wine begins in the vineyard, and that the producer can mess up great grapes, but can not fix bad grapes.  They view their role as a caretaker, and seek to make wine only from the best fruit possible.  In the case of Malbec, or at least the poor quality ones, it seems the wine is being overly manipulated to cover up bad fruit.  Acid may be added.  Oak barrels (or more likely staves, or chips or tea bags of oak shavings) are being relied upon to lend flavors to otherwise bland grapes.

This is a slippery slope.  But you can help!  By purchasing and sharing only Malbecs known to be of good quality, you make the most important vote you can make.  Hopefully, your message to the producers in Argentina will be loud and clear.

I can stand behind the Finca Sophenia.  For additional options, refer to the wines reviewed in the WSJ article here – 

Dave the Wine Merchant 

Today’s Quote:
"First come the innovators, who see opportunities that others don't.  Then come the imitators, who copy what the innovators have done.  And then come the idiots, whose avarice undoes the very innovations they are trying to use to get rich."

~ Warren Buffett (1930 – ?)


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