A perfect meal: Rack of lamb and mushroom risotto paired with Barolo

Believe it or not, I’ve never had a bottle of Barolo! For my first time with this famous wine, I am going with a rather expensive bottle – a 2006 Borgogno Barolo. I am told by the salesperson that it is excellent. At $86 for this bottle, let’s hope she’s right!

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I am also trying a second bottle of Barolo brought by my dinner guest: a 2006 Prunotto.

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Barolos are infamous for needing a long time to ripen. Both bottles are already eight years old but apparently, they can still benefit from lots of aging. Since I don’t want to wait around for 10 years, I will decant this for a few hours before dinner is served.

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So now, what to serve for dinner?

Let’s first figure out the profile of these wines. The Barolo is made from the nebbiolo grape made in the north of Italy – the Piedmont region.

Color and robe: The Barolos have a distinct rust or garnet like color – it is very much on the orange spectrum. The wine is also incredibly light in texture and lacks opacity.

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Aroma (the nose): Barolos are known for having two very contrasting aromas and this wine fits that profile: rose and tar. The tar aroma is very strong and it is the first thing that hits my nose. This gives a very strong earthy quality to the wine. Roses, I don’t get so much from either bottle but there is a bit of richness to the aromas. Other aromas include dark fruits like cherries and plums.

Now for the taste: the flavors of the Barolo are very intense. Even after a few hours in the decanter, the flavors still pack a punch. The Barolo is also a highly tannic wine. I love robust red wines and especially tannic ones. I’m really gonna enjoy drinking this wine.

The food: The strong tannins necessitate a rich food pairing and the boldness of the flavors need equally strongly flavors in the food. So I’m definitely thinking red meat for the richness. For the strong flavors in the wine and the, I’m thinking gamey meat. Lamb would be perfect! Never made lamb before. I will be ambitious and make a rack of lamb, cooked medium rare! I will rub the rack with a mixture of rosemary, olive oil and garlic and then throw it in the oven.

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I want a side dish that’s equally rich and strong in its flavors. I will prepare a buttery and creamy risotto with mushrooms. To complement the earthiness of the wine, I will overload on the mushrooms and put four types in the risotto: shitake, oyster, portabella, and the powerful porcini. I will even add some truffle oil.

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The risotto came out super buttery and creamy. Yum!

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Since I’ve got the oven going, I will also throw in some baby carrots to roast. I absolutely love roasted veggies!

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I finally got my meal planned. So how did I do in pairing this meal with the Barolo?

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Strong gamey flavors are a perfect match with the Barolo. Due to very earthy aromas in the Barolo, any gamey meat – such as venison, bison, lamb – would be a great accompaniment to this wine. Since venison or lamb are not available to me in Abu Dhabi, the lamb was the easy choice. The lamb also worked really well with this wine. The strength of the lamb’s flavors is strong enough to handle the punch of the Barolo and lamb is gamey enough to complement the earthiness of the wine.

Tannins love rich foods. The lamb becomes a better choice than the bison or venison when we take into consideration the tannin content of this wine. Tannic reds go perfectly with rich meats and lamb is a lot fattier than venison or bison. I think the fat content of the lamb makes it work much better with the wine, whereas the venison and the bison may have fallen a little short in this respect. The lamb worked really well to smooth out the tannins and the tannins did a great job of balancing the richness of the dish and cleansing the palate.

Barolo loves ‘shrooms! The Barolo is an earthy wine and that makes earthy mushrooms are great food choice. Again, because Barolo’s flavors are strong, I’m including strong mushroom flavors like porcini and truffle. The buttery rich risotto is rich enough to match the tannins of the wine. At the same time, the mushroom flavors were strong enough to hold up to the intensity of the wine.

I loved this meal with this wine! Everything worked really well. The rack of lamb is fatty and the risotto is also a rich dish, both of which worked really well to soften the tannins of the Barolo. Both the food and the wine had intense flavors so neither overpowered the other.

I will have to plan a trip to Italy soon and stock up on Barolo! What a lovely wine!

Incidentally, since the Barolo is made from the nebbiolo grapes, we also wanted to see how the Nebbiolo wine fares with this dish. The Nebbiolo is a great alternative wine to this dish and Nebbiolos tends to be a lot cheaper than Barolos (I will write about pairing Nebbiolo with a rich and earthy tajarin pasta dish in the near future so stay tuned 🙂 ).

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About that perfect bottle

I love all things food, wine, and travel!

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