Lamb is a rich, full-flavored, hearty meat that is often the hallmark of special occasions such as Easter and Christmas. But it can also be soft and delicate at the same time, and what you serve it with can make or break the recipe. This means that pairing the perfect wine with lamb plays an important role. Here is the best wine to pair with lamb to get your recipe spot on.

Key factors to consider when choosing the best wine to pair with lamb

While of course, personal preference– in terms of both lamb and wine choice– is important, there are some key factors to take into consideration.

Types of lamb cuts

Will you be serving a large lamb shoulder, succulent lamb shank, a lean lamb loin, fatty lamb flank, a classic rack of lamb ribs, or scrumptious lamb sirloin chops? All these different cuts of lamb go well with different types of wine.

Accompanying ingredients in your lamb recipe

While the lamb will most likely be the star of the show, it's also necessary to determine what other ingredients will be included in the dish. Because certain wines go well with certain herbs and spices, you might want to pair your wine with your meal's base flavors rather than the meat.

For instance, herbs and spices like thyme, rosemary, sage, peppercorns, fennel, mint, cilantro, bay leaves, star anise, coriander, cumin, and caraway pair well with red wines like Cabernet Sauvignon. And white wine like Sauvignon Blanc works particularly well with herbs and spices like basil, tarragon, dill, turmeric, and black pepper.

Cooking method and timing

The cooking method you'll use with your lamb recipe and the cooking duration also play a part in which wine you should choose. 

  • Lamb that is served pink, or a rare lamb, requires a light-bodied wine or even a Rosé to keep the delicate flavor of the lamb.
  • Medium to well-done lamb is rich in flavor – especially when roasted – and so a full-bodied wine will complement the meat’s rich flavor.
  • Slow-roasted lamb needs to be served with a mature or very well-balanced wine to properly draw out the lamb’s flavors. Anything else will not do the meat justice.

Best wine to pair with lamb

Now that you know what to keep in mind when creating wine and lamb pairings, it’s time to find out what the best wine to pair with lamb is, taking into account the type of lamb, the meal, and popular accompanying ingredients.

Wine pairing with lamb chops

Lamb chops are one of the most popular cuts of lamb as they are full of flavors and are typically very tender. While most people eat loin chops, which are the leanest and meatiest type of chop, you can also get rib chops, shoulder blade chops, or arm chops to prepare your lamb menu.

All lamb chops should be served medium-rare. When it comes to wine pairing, these cuts go nicely with medium-bodied red wines – like Chianti, Mencia, or an Argentine Malbec. This is because these reds are flavorful enough to break through the crispy meat on the outside of the cut without overpowering the soft meat on the inside.

The perfect wine to pair with grilled lamb chops that are cooked on the barbeque will need to be a bit stronger. This is because lamb chops that have been cooked on the grill will deliver a strong smoky flavor. To this end, blended reds, typically Shiraz Cabernet blend and Pinot Noirs are perfect wine choices.

Wine pairing with lamb racks

The rack of the lamb is a very popular cut as it is often very tender, lean, and flavorful. Lamb racks are frequently roasted, grilled, or pan-fried, with just a dash of oil and a handful of herbs on top.

When it comes to finding the best wine to pair with lamb, both red and white wines are suitable options for lamb racks. Both styles can be suitable depending on how the food is prepared and which ingredients are utilized.

Lamb that involves more herbs goes best with a Sauvignon Blanc, like this Gato Negro 9 Lives Sauvignon Blanc. This is a white wine with lime, grapefruit, and citrus flavors, which provide a counterpoint to savory the dish. It also has subtle notes of jalapeno and clove, which are just spicy enough to balance out the fattiness without overtaking the other flavors. 

Lamb rack recipes that are a little bit lighter can be served with stronger wines, like a Rhone Shiraz. This full-bodied red wine has high tannin levels and presents blueberry and olive tastes. The richness of Shiraz wine is world-renowned and brings out the subtle flavors of your lamb racks through its peppery aftertaste.

Wine pairings with lamb shank

Shank is another common lamb cut that lends itself well to an assortment of cuisines. As the cut comes from the hard-working leg of the lamb, it can be tough and chewy when if cooked quickly. As a result, lamb shank should be cooked slowly over several hours.

Nebbiolo, Syrah, and Tempranillo are your best wine choices for a lamb shank wine pairing. This dish often includes herbs and spices such as parsley, rosemary, ground pepper, and garlic, which need specific complementary wine flavors. 

Nebbiolo, a full-bodied red wine more famously known by the two wine regions of Barolo and Barbaresco in Piedmont, Italy, offers a rich taste profile. This wine’s licorice, truffle, and fennel flavors, along with high tannins and acidity, help to accentuate the spices in the lamb dish. 

Shiraz red wine adds depth and unique boldness to this hearty recipe. If you want to impress experienced guests or create a taste for overall richer meals, nothing can beat a Shiraz. 

Tempranillo is another great choice if you prefer the notes of black fruits, or have a lamb recipe that suits it. Fig, blackberry flavors, and distinct woodsiness make up this aged wine, making it your best wine to pair with lamb.

Lamb leg wine pairing

If you want a popular and easy leg of lamb wine pairing, look no further than Malbec red wine. This wine is well known for its sweetness, with medium tannins and a full mouthfeel. Malbec can make a match in heaven with rich meat dishes and has a lighter finish than other red wine types. There are also aromas of raspberry, chocolate, and tobacco that round out each sip.

Best wine pairing with young lamb

Young lamb, as the name implies, is meat from a lamb that is 6 to 10 weeks old at the time of slaughter. The mild, soft, and delicate flavor characteristic of this meat makes it popular.

Because young lamb does not have the same level of flavor as mature lamb, you have to be very careful when choosing a wine to accompany it. Avoid full-bodied wines as much as possible since they will entirely overwhelm the delicate flavor of a young lamb recipe.

Choose a Pinot Noir from a cooler wine region, rosé, or a light wine with plenty of fruitiness to avoid ruining your young lamb recipe. Chandon Rosé, for instance, can be a winning bet to your lamb and wine pairing. It is fruity and delicate, with pale pink color, great intensity, and a fine balance of floral and red-fruit notes to enhance your dining experience.

Best wine to pair with lamb tagine recipe

When you need the right wine for lamb tagine, go with a Rioja. Tagine is a traditional Moroccan that includes several spices, including turmeric, black pepper, saffron, cloves, and cinnamon. As such, it needs a drink that will complement and amplify these spices. 

Rioja is a terrific choice because its heavy tannin level, dark berry flavors, and strong acidity balance out the bright, zesty elements of this stew. The ingredients in a Tagine stew are usually soft and chewy, so a drink with strong tannins adds a new dimension to the flavor profile.

Lamb curry wine pairing

Much like lamb stew, lamb curry can be made from various cuts of the lamb. Lamb shanks or shoulders are most commonly used, and the base of the dish is made of potatoes, onions, and a variety of aromatics. Getting your lamb curry wine pairing right is quite tricky. Because the ingredients used in curries and the level of spice vary so much, you'll need a wine that matches your recipe.

For sweeter and lighter curries, it's a good idea to go with a Syrah or Malbec. Both of these red wines are known for being smooth and sweet, and they give a tangy richness to the curry that it doesn't have on its own. 

If your curry is spicy, a low acid wine like a Riesling or Sauvignon Blanc white wine could be a wise choice. These are dry whites that won’t overwhelm your appetite for such a thick and hearty lamb dish. Instead, you’ll enjoy sips of citrus, and fruits such as peach, and grapefruit.

Best wine to pair with the lamb burger

Lamb burgers are a delicious way to spice up your grilling routine. Like most grilled meats, lamb burgers will go nicely with red wines that have some oak aging to bring out the smoky flavors. You can pair lamb burgers with a dry Shiraz or a juicy Zinfandel.  

Give The Seven Deadly Zins a try if you're looking for a good California Zinfandel. The style pairs well with lamb, and this particular affordable bottle represents the famous red wine perfectly. That should be no surprise as it is a blend from seven zinfandel vineyards in the Lodi AVA of California’s Central Valley. Additionally, it’s an eco-friendly wine choice that adheres to The LODI Rules of sustainable winemaking.

FAQs when choosing the best wine to pair with lamb

What level of acidity and tannins in wine?

For most lamb dishes, you might wish to go for a low to mildly acidic wine. Higher acidic wines are better paired with lighter recipes like chicken and fish, while the richness of lamb is better suited for a slightly acidic bottle.

When choosing the best wine for lamb pairings, the level of tannins should also be properly considered. In most cases, you'll want to seek a wine with firm, high tannins, which will give structure to stand up to the lamb's richer tastes.

Red or white wines?

Lamb is traditionally paired with red wine. Red wine, as a robust, rich, and heavier meat, not only holds up better but is also better suited to the lamb's rich characteristics. This is particularly true for medium to well-done lamb, as well as roasted or grilled lamb. Having said that, white wines such as  Riesling is an exception, since it pairs well with curried lamb and enhances the spices and sweet notes of both tomato-based and spicier curries (as we’ve just mentioned before). Some cuts of lamb can also be served with fuller-bodied white wines.

Full or light-bodied wine?

For most lamb, full-bodied wines are preferred, while a medium- to light-bodied red wine is appropriate for young lamb or meat that has been well braised. A full-bodied red wine complements the richness of the lamb and enhances rather than is overwhelmed by, the juiciness of the lamb.  

What wine should I look for in terms of a finish?

In general, you should opt for a full-bodied red wine with a long finish. A longer finish is especially suitable for roasted and grilled lamb, as well as lamb cuts like chops, loins, and burgers.  The tastes may be lost if you choose a wine with a short finish.

What flavor notes to look for in wine and lamb pairings?

The flavor notes you want in your wine choice do depend on how the lamb has been prepared.

Final thoughts

There's no reason why you shouldn't enjoy a glass of your favorite wine with your delicious lamb dish. Before choosing a wine, keep in mind the type of lamb, the cooking method and duration, as well as the other ingredients of the dish.

Finally, use the guidelines in this article to help you choose the best wine for lamb that suits you and your culinary needs.