Join Us & Get Wine 101 Course 75% Off

It’s All About The Sauce: Pairing Wine with Lamb, Steak, and Other Red Meat

Written by Madeline Puckette


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

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?

Malbec, Syrah, Petite Sirah, Touriga Nacional, and Petit Verdot will work wonders with lamb.

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?

Try pairing it with lighter reds such as Pinot Noir, Rosé of Sangiovese, Valpolicella (made with the local Italian Corvina grape), and Zinfandel.

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?

Check out Côtes du Rhône, Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Chianti, Valpolicella, and Montepulciano d’Abruzzo.

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.

tangy sauces balsamic reduction

Tangy Sauces

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!)

TIP: Asian beef dishes also pair wonderfully with sparkling rosé.

Tangy sauce photo source

chimichurri green sauce with steak

Green Sauces

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

Brown Sauces Demi-glace and red meat

Brown Sauces

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

Tomato based sauces with wine and red meat

Tomato-Based Sauces

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

white sauces and wine pairing with steak and lamb

White Sauces

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.

  • Cinsault
  • Pinot Noir
  • Gamay
  • St. Laurent
  • Zweigelt


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.

  • Sangiovese
  • Barbera
  • Cabernet Franc
  • Dolcetto
  • Carménère
  • Valpolicella Wines
  • Côtes du Rhône wines
  • Merlot
  • Tempranillo (Crianza level Rioja)
  • Negroamaro
  • Zinfandel
  • Lagrein
  • Blaufrankish


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.

  • Syrah/Shiraz
  • Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Petite Sirah
  • Malbec
  • Monastrell
  • Nero d’Avola
  • Aglianico
  • Tempranillo (Reserva & Gran Reserva)
  • Nebbiolo (like Barbaresco)
  • Montepulciano
  • Tannat
  • Sagrantino
  • Pinotage


Pair Wine and Food Everyday

Live the wine lifestyle. Use this chart to make amazing food and wine pairings.

Buy Poster

Written byMadeline Puckette

James Beard Award-winning author and Wine Communicator of the Year. I co-founded Wine Folly to help people learn about wine. @WineFolly

Join Our Newsletter

Jumpstart your wine education and subscribe to the Wine Folly newsletter right now. Always awesome. Always free.

sign up free