Wine with lamb at a glance
Style of lamb
Lamb cutlets or young lamb served pink
Pinot Noir | Rosé Champagne
Roast lamb served medium to well done
Cabernet Sauvignon | Syrah or Shiraz | Tempranillo (Rioja Reserva)
Slow roasted shoulder of lamb or lamb shank
Grenache | Sangiovese (Brunello di Montalcino)
Which wine goes well with lamb?
Many reds from the classic grape varieties are wonderful if you’re looking to pair wine with lamb.
We’ve focused on reds below, but white wines can also work with red meat.
When matching wine with lamb it’s important to pay close attention to the cut of meat you’ve acquired, plus how you are going to cook it and serve it.
Below, we’ve looked at the three most popular ways to cook lamb.
Pinot Noir with young lamb – served pink
Lighter, tender lamb meat demands a wine that will not swamp and overpower the delicate flavours and sublime texture. If you do reach for a full bodied red, you run the risk of ruining your meat.
A fresher style of Pinot Noir from cooler climate regions can combine lovely red berry fruit balanced by earthy notes, fine tannins and good natural acidity.
Those searching for value in Burgundy could look to lesser-known areas on the up.
They include Rully, where the reds have been stepping out of Chardonnay’s shadow, or Fixin at the northern end of the Côte de Nuits, and fresher styles from Givry further south, in the Côte Chalonnaise.
Some top producers have outposts in these regions.
It’s worth looking at Bourgogne Rouge from the best growers in general, said Tim Atkin MW in this article on hunting good value Burgundy.
There are many other Pinot regions to explore, including:
- Yarra Valley or Mornington Peninsula in Victoria, Australia;
- Walker Bay in South Africa;
- Russian River Valley, Anderson Valley or Santa Barbara County in California
- Willamette Valley in Oregon.
Rosé wine with lamb
If you don’t fancy a delicate red, this is your chance to reach for a weighty rosé such as Tavel or Bandol from the south of France.
Don’t believe friends who say rosé wines don’t go with food.
Alternatively, how about upping the tempo with a vintage rosé Champagne? Pink, tender lamb and a top rosé Champagne is something everyone must try once.
Cabernet Sauvignon wine with lamb roast – medium to well done
This is a classic. The meat will be richer in flavour and not quite as tender, so a roast like this can handle a fuller-bodied red wine.
Bordeaux blends are made for roast lamb. The young Cabernet Sauvignon-dominant wines of the Bordeaux Left Bank are brimming with cassis fruit, backed by a splattering of spiciness and – in the best versions – well-judged oak.
You could try a vintage likely to be more approachable at a younger age, such as 2011, 2007 or 2006 perhaps. So-called ‘second wines‘ from recent top vintages are also worth a look.
Great vintages like 2000 or 1996 could also make a memorable occasion, if you’re lucky enough to have them.
A wine like this will take the meat to an extra dimension, and the bolder tannin levels in your glass should also make the lamb meat feel more tender.
Good Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot blends can be found across the globe, too, of course.
The regions to look out for are:
- Hawke’s Bay – New Zealand
- California – USA
- Coonawarra & Margaret River – Australia
- Stellenbosch – South Africa
- Argentina and Chile – South America
If you’re not keen on Cab, go for a good Rioja Reserva with some bottle age, or look towards Syrah / Shiraz.
A Northern Rhône Syrah will enhance your roast lamb. Some wines will offer a touch of pepper spice in the glass that can also work beautifully with the texture of the meat.
Châteauneuf-du-Pape or Brunello with shoulder of lamb
If you’re slow-roasting a shoulder from an older lamb, you’ll be cooking with a lot more fat content on the meat, which holds and seals in the flavour fantastically.
That pronounced, gamey flavour to your roast means that we’re looking for a wine with that great balance of tannin, acidity and a little bottle age to draw out the flavours.
Grenache-based with a few years of bottle age would fit the bill.
This is classic Châteauneuf-du-Pape territory in the Southern Rhône, although you could also look to South Australia’s McLaren Vale or some of the great-value Grenache-Syrah-Mourvèdre (GSM) blends in Languedoc-Roussillon.
If none of these sound appealing, how about Spain’s Ribera del Duero region?
A well-balanced Brunello will have the tannin to soften the meat and enough natural acidity to cut through those extra layers of fat. This can be a truly sumptuous match.
Château d’Issan’s head chef Frédéric Braud shares his deceptively simple recipe for seven hour roasted leg of lamb, plus his pairing suggestions.
Once you’ve made your choice, don’t forget to think about the serving temperature of your red wine.
Updated in March 2021 by Chris Mercer. Originally published in March 2016 by Harry Fawkes.