The lambs are supposed to be both born and raised in the Gironde area (“Agneau né et élevé en Gironde”) according to the EU PGI certification. Pauillac is a small village in the Haut-Médoc region in the Gironde département.
The lambs are born and raised beside their mothers on the same farm. They are kept with their mothers for 60 days, and consume only their mother’s milk, making them part of the category of lamb called “Suckling Lamb” (or “agneau de lait” in French.)
The lambs are kept in a sheep fold all the time, while their mothers go out to graze in meadows from April to November. In the winter, the mothers are kept in the sheep-fold as well, eating grains and forage.
The lambs will be a maximum of 75 days old when they are slaughtered, and weigh between 24 and 33 pounds (11 to 15 kg.)
The meat is a very pale pink, and tender, with firm white fat and a rich taste. The kidneys come out plump and round with a firm layer of fat around them (the right kidney is considered better than the left for eating.)
As of 2005, only one supplier, Domingo Reyes, was actually raising the lambs in Pauillac (he started in 1992.) The sheep breeds he raises are Lacaune, Tarasconnaise and Blanche du Massif Central.
Non-PGI lamb from the area is sometimes referred to as “agneau princier”, or as just “AP.”
Historically, the mothers used to be allowed to graze in vineyards in between the vines during the day. Vine-growers liked this because the manure fertilized the land, and they got a few lambs to eat in exchange as well. The lambs were left back in pens, so they wouldn’t frisk about and damage the vines, presumably. Now the practice of sending them out to graze in between vines has died out.
The lamb received Red Label Status in France in 1999.
Before the PGI was achieved, any lamb that was in Pauillac was called “Pauillac”. The sheep could actually be born in Poland, and raised in Romania, for all it mattered.