When it comes to pairing wine with food, we live by two maxims at our house.
1. If it grows with it, it goes with it. (Motto attributed to the great New York restaurateur Danny Meyer.)
Look to traditional pairings as rules-of-thumb.
For example, the inhabitants of the western coast of France famously love to pair freshly shucked oysters with Muscadet. Et voilà!
The Tuscans are fond of Sangiovese and steak cooked al sangue (blood rare). In other words, when in Florence, do as the Florentines do.
2. Base your pairing on the combination of aromas and the flavors in the foods you're serving.
Citrus-driven white wines like a traditional Chablis or New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc will work swimmingly well with pan-roasted Atlantic halibut fillets the same way that lemon juice does.
The red fruit and berry flavors of wines like Oregon Pinot Noir or Cerasuolo di Vittoria from Sicily will cull the flavors from roast wild turkey leg the same way that housemade chutney does.
So when it comes to selecting a wine to pair with our roast leg of lamb for Easter Sunday, I try to imagine a wine that the shepherds of southern Italy would drink and a wine that will complement the earthiness of the dish.
This year for our Easter Sunday feast, we plan to open a bottle of Negroamaro from Apulia (or Puglia), Italy -- the heel of the boot -- the Vittoria Negroamaro by old school producer Pichierri.
This wine has the vibrant acidity that we crave when we sit down to eat fatty foods and its bright black cherry and plum notes are ideal with the salty lamb and roast potatoes that we serve to our guests.
But it's the wine's earthy undertones that make it ideal for the rich umami flavors of the juicy lamb.
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You can find it at the Houston Wine Merchant for around $15.
But if you want to look beyond the shepherds of southern Italy, think Carignane from Anderson Valley, California, or Syrah from Southern Rhône; Cabernet Franc from the Loire Valley of France or Nebbiolo from Piedmont, Italy.