Wine Pairing With Lamb
Steak, chicken, and fish often come to mind when preparing a fancy dinner, but sometimes you want to level up your game.
A lightly seasoned filet mignon with a peppery Pinot Noir is an easy classic, but what about pairing wine with a decadent, tender dish like lamb?
We’re looking at several lamb recipes to determine the best lamb wine pairings we think you should indulge in.
Get ready to roll up your sleeves and wear your chef’s hat. Here are the best lamb wine pairings.
Best Wine With Lamb
If you’ve ever eaten lamb, you may have paired it with mint jelly or had it as a Gyro. You might remember lamb is a fattier, chewier meat than steak or chicken. Lamb often calls for medium-bodied to fuller-bodied wine with higher tannins and acidity due to the fat. The obvious answer is to pair lamb with red wine, though a few white wines seem to be the exception to the “red wine with red meat” rule.
Let’s look at those nitty-gritty details of wine pairing with lamb more closely.
Young lamb or spring lamb is that buttery, melt-in-your-mouth lamb dish your tastebuds won’t forget. Often served pink, this dish calls for a subtle complement to its tender textures. Therefore, we think a lighter, subtly acidic Pinot Noir will be the best pairing for this. If you want something a bit brighter, Rosé is your lovely aromatic answer.
Rack of Lamb
Our next classic dish is rack of lamb. Like the other lamb dishes we’ll address, your wine pairing will depend on how rare or well-done the meat is. Stick with Rosé, Pinot Noir, Gamay, or a dry and fruity white Semillon if rare. When more well done, try a heartier red wine like Cabernet Sauvignon, Grenache, Merlot, Sangiovese, or Chianti Classico from Italy. A red blend from the Rhone Valley in France will also pair nicely.
If your lamb is somewhere in the middle, bring in an oaky Chardonnay to complement those buttery textures and herb spices.
If you think the lamb we’ve mentioned already is rich, braised lamb shank is thicker and juicier. This makes bolder, more tannic red wines like Malbec, Grenache, Syrah, Merlot, and exquisite Tempranillo from Ribera del Duero in Spain a perfect match. Slow-cooked, spice-infused lamb shank can handle just about every full-bodied red wine.
Lambchops are usually glazed with decadent mushroom gravy or a sweet balsamic sauce. This makes it perfect for red fruit wines like Pinot Noir. But when served with a heartier sauce and a side of potatoes, throw a nice Argentine Malbec, Rhone Blend, Merlot, or Chianti into the mix.
If your lamb chops are more savory or fried, a syrupy orange wine will add a pleasant burst of sweetness.
Shoulder of Lamb
If you’re slow-roasting a shoulder of lamb wrapped in garlic sauce and topped with rosemary, Châteauneuf-du-Pape or Brunello will be your best friend. With a perfect balance of tannins and acidity, these wines are perfect for bringing out this lamb dish's juicy, gamey flavors. A GSM blend (Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre) is also an excellent choice, as this wine will cut through the fat and peppery herb seasoning nicely.
Roast Leg of Lamb
Smoking a beautiful leg of lamb? Nothing will bring out the smoky and peppery flavors like a nice Syrah. You can also try this decadent lamb dish with Cabernet Sauvignon, Sangiovese, Chianti Classico, Pinot Noir, or a velvety Bordeaux red blend. Don’t forget to lay on the spices with this buttery, tender meal.
The best wine pairing for lamb curry depends solely on the spice level of the dish. If you love your curry sweeter, the smooth red fruit textures of Syrah, Malbec, or Pinot Noir will add richness and balance. If you want to turn up the heat in your lamb recipe, break out an aged sweet Riesling, Viognier, Pinot Gris, or Sauvignon Blanc. These smoother, low-acid white wines are perfect for calming the fiery spices of any curry.
Whether you’re throwing lamb on the grill or making lamb burgers, a zippy Zinfandel will cut through those barbecue flavors. You can also bring back the Rosé and Pinot Noir if you’d like to incorporate softer, fruitier flavors. A Cabernet Sauvignon will be a nice, calming addition if you’re biting into a lamb burger topped with blue cheese.
One of the easiest ways to cook lamb, lamb stew pairs well with medium-bodied Italian wines like Chianti Classico. Fruity red wines like Bordeaux or Pinot Noir are an excellent easy choice as they complement the stew without overpowering. But if the stew is thicker and more decadent, you can never go wrong with a bold, full-bodied red like Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon.
Solve the Mystery of Lamb Pairing With Wine
Pairing wine with lamb is complex enough as you need to keep the part of the lamb, how tender it is, the sauces, spices, and cooking methods in mind.
It’s a lot to remember, but starting with a light-bodied fruit-forward red wine will be a great place to start. The heavier and more well-cooked the lamb dish, the more you can begin to incorporate fuller-bodied reds.
Once spicy flavors come into play, we can talk about sweet, medium-bodied white wines.
Keep things as simple as you can and go from there for now.
For more recipes, see the Macy’s Wine Shop Blog.