Top pairings | Top wine pairings for lamb

Top pairings

Top wine pairings for lamb

It’s true that lamb is one of the most wine-friendly of meats, as at home with red Bordeaux and Rioja as it is with the fruitier wines of the new world. But if you’re looking for a spot-on wine pairing it’s worth thinking just how - and for how long - you’re going to cook it.

And, though you might not have thought about it before, how old it is.

'Baby/milk fed’ lamb

A delicacy more popular in Mediterranean countries such as Spain, Italy and south-west France than in the UK and one that deserves to be paired with fine wines - top quality Bordeaux, burgundy and Rioja, all with a few years' bottle age. (Mature wines go well with this style of lamb)

Spring lamb served pink with fresh herbs and/or spring vegetables

Cuts like rack of lamb, noisettes and leg of lamb - exactly the sort of dishes you might be thinking about for an Easter feast (unless you’re living in the southern hemisphere, of course). Again, the wines mentioned above will work well but I’ve got a bias in favour of Pinot Noir or cru Beaujolais with this type of dish. Dry rosé, especially vintage rosé Champagne, is also good.

Roast lamb served medium-rare to well-done, with garlic or rosemary and/or a winey sauce or gravy

The way many households would prepare a leg of lamb for a multi-generational family get-together. This is more robust treatment than the above which would work better with a younger, more fruit-driven wine such as a younger red Bordeaux, Cabernet or Cabernet/Merlot blend, a Rioja reserva, a Chianti Classico or a northern Rhône red. (The same goes for lamb shanks cooked in red wine.)

Lamb chops

Often served simply on the grill - maybe with some grilled Mediterranean vegetables such as courgettes (zucchini) or peppers on the side. A medium-bodied red wine such as a Chianti or a Mencia from northern Spain would be delicious as would reds from the Southern Rhône or Languedoc.

Slow-roast shoulder of lamb

A fattier, more flavourful dish, especially if made with older lamb such as hoggett or mutton. A slightly gamey Rhône or Spanish red such as a Ribera del Duero is a good choice with this.

Typically British/Irish lamb stews and hotpots, shepherd’s pie

The characteristic of these types of dishes is their very simple flavours - sweet-tasting lamb, stock and a few root vegetables with maybe a sprig of thyme or bay. Big tannic reds will overwhelm them - stick to inexpensive country reds such as a Côtes du Rhône Villages. (Or, frankly, a British pale ale.)

More exotic lamb stews such as tagines or lamb with aubergines

Robust, rustic but not overly tannic reds such as Côtes du Roussillon, Languedoc reds and young (crianza) Riojas.

Lamb curries such as rogan josh

A fruity, slightly porty red such as a Douro red or Zinfandel should work provided the accompanying dishes aren’t too hot. India Pale Ales (IPAs) are also good.

Chargrilled/barbecued lamb

Depends on the rub or marinade. If it’s spicy you’ll need a wine with some sweet fruit like a Chilean Cabernet, Pinotage or an Australian Shiraz. If it’s marinated, Greek-style, with lemon and herbs look for a wine with a bit less fruit and a bit more acidity. (Italian reds such as Chianti and Barbera fit this description. (See this recipe for lamb and porcini kebabs with sage and parmesan.) Crisp Greek whites like Assyrtiko and strong dry rosés are also enjoyable.)

For more inspiration, see my 5 favourite pairings for wine and lamb.

Image © Natasha Breen -

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Comments: 4 (Add)

Jon Killi on June 15 2021 at 18:22

i do lamb rare to very rare, suppose other recommendations can be expected to work better with this.
i am particularly fond of rack of mutton. wines?

david mizon on October 21 2020 at 16:19

what about wine with herdwickmutton

Karen Christian on February 25 2013 at 21:33

Thanks for the Côtes du Rhône Villages & Irish stew recommendation - I was really struggling with what would go well with this. Hopefully my dinner guests will enjoy it as well.

Gabriel on November 24 2012 at 18:30

sometime soon, methinks! i keep loonikg at the secret asparagus patch and hoping, hoping likewise, we'll get you over when the fruit's all lush and ready to be picked some time away yet, but, ya know

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