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Favorite wine with lamb

We're grilling lamb tonight & cannot wait. I'm thinking of a Syrah, but what would y'all drink?

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  1. I like a fruity Pinot but a syrah would be good too.

    1. Love Zinfandel with lamb!

      1. Isn't Cabernet Sauvignon the classic pairing for lamb?

        5 Replies
        1. re: Chinon00

          Not in my experience. For plain lamb, seasoned with salt and pepper, possibly garlic, Cabernet is too strong. Pinot Noir is perfect.

          Add rosemary, heavier seasoning and grilling to the prep, and Cabernet almost works, but not as well as Syrah or Merlot. Cabernet dominates nearly all lamb preps; the flavors of the lamb and the flavors of the wine are not in equal intensity, so the pairing does not work as well as other varietals, at least for me.

          Syrah is good for preparations with a marinade, especially those with tamarind or pomegranate.

          Another factor in pairing in addition to prep is the source of the lamb, and how strong the mutton flavor is. Some Australian lamb is quite mutton-y, and can stand up to a more powerful red; Colorado and Sonoma lamb are lighter in flavor and almost sweet, without that particular mutton-y twang in their flavor.

          With spring lamb, also called new/young/baby lamb, the flavors are even more delicate, and it pairs well with lighter red wines, along the lines of a Beaujolais Villages or even Grenache.

          1. re: Chinon00

            While not the "last" wine that I would choose, it would be down my list.

            Northern Rhône Syrah
            Pinot Noir, or Grenache (Southern Rhône for me)
            1er Cru Gamay
            Then, Cab Sauvignon

            Just MY palate,


            1. re: Bill Hunt

              Some of those grapes I'd imagine are quite tannic while others are not. Is that an issue?

              1. re: Chinon00

                Some can be.

                I usually dredge something up from the cellar, with a bit more age on it, and usually with tannins that have softened over time.


            2. To me it makes a difference how it is prepared. For a simple roast leg of lamb, I am going with a cab. For grilled chops, a zin. For a rack, maybe a pinot. Weird?

              2 Replies
                1. re: tim irvine

                  totally agree with you.

                  Grilled or in a north African dish, frequently a rosé.
                  Roasted, typically a Côtes du Rhone (which is a fallback choice for all lamb)
                  Braises, we go bigger...up to and including Cahors.

                2. Here with grilled lamb I prefer a rich local red unusual in that that contains no Carignan - Saveur de Vigne, Domaine Serrelongue, Maury (Mourvèdre-Syrah-Grenache). A steal at 9€, not exported.

                  I expect the next vintage of this wine to carry the new appellation Maury sec (appellation Maury is for port-like wines). Always wins a gold medal in Paris. A wine that never disappoints, I take at least 6 bottles every year - no need to taste. Julien Fournier insisted I taste the first time - so I took 12 instead of 6.

                  He is one of the talented younger vintners in the Fenouilledes. He makes all his domaine wines from 5 hectares (12.5 acres) of vines; his other 35 hectares produce for the fine local co-op.

                  But I only reach for Saveur de Vigne because I have no Zinfandel or Primitivo !!!! (Used to bring some back in my carry-on luggage).

                  PS I love Mourvèdre. By far the least planted and most difficult to tame of our four Mediterranean red grapes, it is the variety preferred by our top winemakers, generally reserved for premium blends. They consider Syrah rather straightforward/dimensionless.

                  1. Depends on the prep. When we do lamb with fruit (e.g. roast lamb leg with citrus), then full bodied feminine pinots or grenaches work well. Brunellos can work depending.

                    When we do lamb more mediterranean/middle eastern in style (cumin, cilantro, mint) - full bodied feminine pinots can work again sometimes a light european cab franc, or a merlot blend with a decent amount of "green" to it works well.

                    I would avoid any wine that has a lot of meaty/bacon/funky notes as lamb is pretty gamey itself. Every type of red can take on this characteristic, but I find Syrah particularly can have this quality.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: goldangl95

                      I'm with you...as a rule, I tend to choose wines from or in the style of the region of the recipe -- lamb or no.

                      This is a really easy pairing rule-of-thumb that is as close to failsafe as you can get...the locals figured out what to drink with that recipe generations ago -- follow their lead.

                    2. Call me crazy, but....

                      If you are going to spatchcock a lamb over a fire or grill, I love to baste a garlic infused olive oil using rosemary leaves. Final crust sprinkled with Kosher or sea salt.

                      A vin de Atlanta, domaine Georgia, accompanies it wonderfully for me. Acid and sweat notes seem to perfectly pair with the char of the lamb. That's right, Coca-Cola. Recommended in Patmos, Greece.

                      I am not kidding. Give it a try and let me know your thoughts. Along with any of the other fine recs here.

                      BTW, diet is a nogo.

                      2 Replies
                        1. re: INDIANRIVERFL

                          I have found that wines with flavors in the cola/cherry cola/Dr. Pepper/sassafras/horehound pantheon do well with lamb.

                          So I get it....it's just that Coke is not wine. But I get it.

                          1. re: Robert Lauriston

                            aged lamb, cote rotie, ribeira de duero
                            spring lamb - lighter reds, pinot noir or tempranillo

                            1. re: teezeetoo

                              Cote Rotie - Although I love these wines, the trouble I have with Northern Rhone Syrah is that it needs age in the bottle. I can never seem to get this right, so it’s hard to pair with the meal. Is there a solution to this?

                              1. re: BN1

                                I almost always cellar my Northern Rhônes, so it is seldom an issue with me.

                                If I see that I am running out, a call to K&L gets me back on track, unless it's Summer in Arizona. Then, I am on my own, and will go to the PN's.


                                1. re: Bill Hunt

                                  Generally, how long do you cellar your Northern Rhônes? I usually wait until they have over 5 years at least, but they are often closed until long past the meal. Do you just need to know the producer? Is there a safe rule of thumb?

                                  1. re: BN1

                                    For me, 5-10 years is about the average. With the La-Las, for instance, I normally go for a few more years, but it can depend.

                                    In an ideal world, I will have about 6 btls. of each wine and each vintage, and sample them, as time goes by. In an imperfect world, it's maybe Cellar Tracker, or a wild guess.


                            2. re: Robert Lauriston

                              I sort of juggle things a bit, but in general, do agree with you, and especially those Rhône reds (Northern first, but Southern next). PN falls into position # 3 for me, but I see it recommended with Lamb more than Syrah, or Grenache/Ganarcha.


                            3. Too late to help, but with Grilled Lamb, I am a fan of a Northern Rhône Syrah.

                              Good luck, and hope that you enjoyed.


                              2 Replies
                              1. re: Bill Hunt

                                We did. Had a syrah and it was wonderful. Loved all the posts, thank you!!!!

                                1. re: chloebell

                                  Great news!

                                  While PN seems to be the most popular pairing, I usually want a tad more body, heft and structure. Nothing wrong with PN (one of my favorite red grapes for food in general), but I just tend toward Syrah, and almost always Old World. Personal tastes.

                                  Glad that you enjoyed,


                              2. I know it's too late, but it all depends upon the preparation and the cut . . . a roast leg of lamb pairs with wine differently than, say, a crown rack; grilled lamb kabobs differently than, say, grilled lamb loin.

                                In random order, all of these can be successful matches with lamb (or, rather, have been successful matches for me): St.-Émilion (Merlot), Côte-Rôtie (Syrah), Châteauneuf-du-Pape (Grenache), Priorat (Garnacha), Rioja (Tempranillo), Douro Red (a Touriga Nacional-blend) Barbaresco (Nebbiolo), Zinfandel, and Burgundy (Pinot Noir) . . . .

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: zin1953

                                  But which wine with which preparation or does it matter for you?

                                  1. re: Chinon00

                                    Of course it matters! (Sorry I didn't reply sooner.)

                                    Grilled lamb shifts my palate more to the Rhône / Rioja / Priorat . . . the flavors of, say, a roasted leg of lamb move me more to St.-Émilion and Burgundy, maybe the Douro . . . a lamb chop would shift it again.

                                    Then, of course, there's "mood" -- what I *feel* like drinking at the time, whether it "appears" to be a classic match or not.

                                  2. re: zin1953

                                    About the only one that I did not consider was the St.-Émilion, but think that I see where you are coming from there.

                                    I could also see a Cab Franc too, but have just never tried it.



                                  3. It totally depends upon how you cook the lamb, and where the lamb is from. As ML said, Australian lamb is generally older and pretty mutton-y (read stronger flavor) That might go with a cabernet, but I wouldn't choose it. this is where that Syrah would stand out, or perhaps a Chateauneuf-du-Pape.

                                    Cali lamb is much milder in flavor. Oregon Pinot Noir with it, perhaps or a cru Beaujolais..

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: ChefJune

                                      We most often go with Colorado Lamb, though there have been some NZ lamb too. Do not recall any from OZ, but might have missed them - OTOH, we are not big fans of a heavy "mutton" taste, and think that I would remember.

                                      Your comments are something that I will take to heart, during our trip to Sydney next month. Thank you.


                                    2. If they're accesible to you try a Portugese red (blend) from the Duero or Dao. Southern Rhone, Priorat, Aussie Shiraz, Tempranillo based Spanish reds, more "restrained" zinfandel all work too. Whatever you like, really!

                                      1. Sutter Home White Zin goes perfect with a good grilled lamb.

                                        OK, I kid, I kid.

                                        I like Syrah/Shiraz, Petit Sirah, A good Zinfandel and definitely Rhone wines.

                                        6 Replies
                                        1. re: Owtahear

                                          no, but try a crisp French rosé....NOT a white zin -- but a great match for lamb.

                                          1. re: sunshine842

                                            Now, I do have a bottle, or two, of a really robust Gigondas Rosé, and perhaps will give that a try.

                                            My wife is much less a "lamb fan," than I am, so I will need to work her into it.


                                            1. re: sunshine842

                                              Agreed, but to me this is more Provençal -- either lunch or an early dinner as the sun sets, rather than dinner per se . . . but -- again that's me.

                                              1. re: zin1953

                                                oh, it's absolutely, unapologetically Provencal.

                                                But Rose is best with Provencal (summery) preparations --usually grilled.

                                                Cold-weather preparations (roasts, braises, stews) call for cooler-weather wines -- CDR or the full-on red Gigondas.

                                                (friends giggle at me -- I cannot drink rose when it's cold outside. It's silly, and a mental thing, but rose is for summer in my mind)

                                            2. re: Owtahear

                                              Oh, that was ba-a-a-d...

                                              Now, with a good grill char, I could see the Petite Sirah, or a Zin, that was not too fruit-driven.