It’s All About The Sauce: Pairing Wine with Lamb, Steak, and Other Red Meat
Leaner = Lighter – As a general rule, the leaner the red meat you are matching, the lighter the red wine you can use. A rich cut, such as prime rib, will pair nicely with a high tannin red wine such as Petite Sirah or Cabernet Sauvignon. For wine with lamb, the delicate texture and flavor, choose a bold red wine with fine tannins such Malbec or Petit Verdot.
Learn about pairing wine with…
- Wine with Beef
- Wine with Lamb
- Wine with Veal
- Wine with Venison
- Wine with Sauces & Seasoning
- Recommended Wines List
Wine with Beef
lean cuts of beef with wine
When pairing wines with leaner cuts, look for light or medium-bodied red wines. These wines should have slightly higher acidity that will cut through the texture of the lean meat. A general rule to follow is to match the intensity of the dish with the wine, so if it’s top sirloin beef stew, a slightly bolder, medium red such as Sangiovese will do nicely!
- EXAMPLES: Eye of round steak, sirloin tip side steak, top round roast, bottom round roast, top sirloin.
Fatty cuts of beef with wine
Fatty meats work great with bold red wines that have high tannin. The tannin is an astringent which works as a palate cleanser to ’scrape’ the fattiness from the inside of our mouth. This is why bold reds, like Barolo or a Napa Cabernet, work so well with a filet!
- EXAMPLES: Hanger steak, filet mignon, porterhouse steak, skirt steak, New York strip, t-bone steak, ribeye steak.
Wine with Lamb
Lamb is a lot more delicate in flavor than most beef, so generally you can select lighter, more delicately flavored wines. Lamb also really takes on the flavor of the sauce, so consider the sauce when pairing. Opt for more medium-bodied wines or bold reds with smoother tannin. Need a few examples?
A Heavenly Match
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Wine with Veal
Some culinary sources consider it white, some consider it red, but the important thing is that Veal is one of the few meats that can match with white and rosé wine. A great example of this is how the classic Viennese dish, wiener schnitzel, goes perfectly with Austrian Grüner Veltliner. Of course, in this scenario, the veal’s delicate flavors are maintained by the preparation method of frying, so take a moment to understand the preparation method and the sauce used when pairing. Just like with lamb, veal also really takes on the flavor of the sauce. Need a few examples?
Wine with Venison
Venison is rich and sometimes gamey red meat. It’s also pretty lean. Look for rustic medium-bodied red wines. When you put the two together, the wines will taste fruitier, and the meat will taste less gamey. Need a few examples?
Pairing based on Type of Sauce or Seasoning
The sauce is such an important aspect of wine pairing that you can get away with pairing an even wider variety of wines with red meat. For instance, a great match with sweet and tangy Asian dishes like Korean BBQ pork ribs would be a slightly sweet Lambrusco, a bold and fruity South Australian Shiraz or a South African Pinotage.
EXAMPLES: Sweet Tangy BBQ, Pomegranate and Molasses, Korean Barbecue, Mongolian Beef, Hoisin.
PAIRINGS: Look for fruity red wines: Lambrusco, Gamay, Australian Shiraz, California Syrah, Zinfandel, Primitivo, Negroamaro (from Puglia, Italy!)
Tangy sauce photo source
EXAMPLES: Mint Sauce, Chimichurri Sauce, Garlic Rosemary.
PAIRINGS: Look for fruity, bold red wines with smoother, more well-integrated tannins such as Argentinian Malbec or Monastrell. If the dish uses a lot of raw garlic and onion, seek out medium reds with higher acidity to cut through the residual allium flavor, such as a Côtes du Rhône or a Carménère.
Green sauce photo source
EXAMPLES: Bordelaise, Demi-Glace, Poutine Sauce, Red Wine Sauce.
PAIRINGS: Seek out more earthy, bold red wines including Bordeaux, reds from the Languedoc-Roussillon, and Northern Italian reds such as Barbera and Dolcetto.
Brown sauce photo source
EXAMPLES: Espagnole Sauce, Marinara Sauce
PAIRINGS: Find medium-bodied red wines with ample acidity to match the acidity in the tomatoes: Sangiovese, Merlot, Carménère, Cabernet Franc, Tempranillo, and Bardolino.
Red sauce photo source
EXAMPLES: Yoghurt Sauce, Blue Cheese Sauce, Béarnaise, Bechamel, Stroganoff, Peppercorn Sauce
PAIRINGS: Cream sauces offer a wide variety of pairing options: With a yoghurt sauce look for Grenache or even a Rosé wine. With a peppercorn sauce, match with wines with peppery notes such as Cabernet Sauvignon or Shiraz. With stroganoff opt for an earthy French Syrah. With lasagna topped with Bechamel, seek out a medium-bodied red like Valpolicella Ripasso. With Béarnaise, look for a bold red with more acidity, such as Bordeaux, Chilean Cabernet or Lagrein from Italy.
White sauce photo source
Pairing based on Type of Wine
Lighter Red Wines
Lighter red wines pair with leaner cuts and red meats that are served closer to the raw form. The magic of these pairings is the acidity of the light red cutting through the delicate texture of a rare steak. Try them with Beef and Venison Tartare, Beef Pho, and Lamb Gyros.
- Pinot Noir
- St. Laurent
Medium Red Wines
Medium red wines match with multi-ingredient dishes. For example, the following dishes really work with medium red wines: Bolognese Sauce, Beef Stew, Tomato-based Dishes, Lasagna, Hamburgers, Indian Lamb Curry, Nachos, Ragout, and Beef Bourgogne.
- Cabernet Franc
- Valpolicella Wines
- Côtes du Rhône wines
- Tempranillo (Crianza level Rioja)
Bold Red Wines
Bold red wines complement steaks, chops, and barbecue. The high tannin in bold red wines act as a palate cleansing astringent with fatty cuts of beef.
- Cabernet Sauvignon
- Petite Sirah
- Nero d’Avola
- Tempranillo (Reserva & Gran Reserva)
- Nebbiolo (like Barbaresco)
Pair Wine and Food Everyday
Live the wine lifestyle. Use this chart to make amazing food and wine pairings.