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Whether you're serving lamb for Easter dinner or some other special occasion, there are a number of impressive wines that you can bring to the table. The absolute best pairings for lamb are found in red wines, including a rich cabernet sauvignon, a classic Bordeaux, and Chianti. White wine lovers are not shut out here, though. A good gewürztraminer or even a California chardonnay will make a fine addition to the meal as well.
No matter your personal taste or budget, or the dish you're preparing, read on for our picks of the best wines with lamb.
Best Overall: Château Grand-Puy-Lacoste Borie Pauillac
A beautiful Bordeaux makes a very nice lamb pairing, no matter how you prepare it. Lacoste Borie is a classic example of the Pauillac region, which is known for blends dominated by cabernet sauvignon. From Château Grand-Puy-Lacoste, this red wine is a blend of cabernet sauvignon, merlot, and cabernet franc grapes, all of which are harvested by hand. It is aged for about 1 1/2 years in French oak barrels, about half of which are new and introduced with each vintage.
With Lacoste Borie, you’ll enjoy the red's dark fruits, intriguing spice, and perfectly round tannins. It’s an elegant wine that’s not overpriced, and it's only right to pair it with an amazing dish. Few can outshine the classic crown of lamb.
Best Budget: Layer Cake Shiraz
Invite a bottle of Australian shiraz to your dinner table, and all of your guests are sure to walk away happy. With a selection like Layer Cake Shiraz, you'll be pleased, too, because this complex red is easy on the budget.
Two vineyards in South Australia contribute to this wonderful red, and the microclimate of each produces distinct grapes. The moderate temperatures and deep soil of the McLaren Vale yield big, juicy fruit, while grapes grown in the rough Outback terrain of the Barossa Valley are tiny and thick-skinned but give the wine its intense structure. When the two come together, the wine offers everything that makes a shiraz memorable, including rich, dark berries, and an array of spices. Pair it with lamb chops Dijon for a delectable dinner.
Best White Wine: Gundlach Bundschu Gewürztraminer
You do have to be choosy when pairing white wines with lamb, but gewürztraminer is one that will rarely let you down. The white grape varietal originated in Alsace, France, and is also prominently grown in Germany. It’s gaining acclaim worldwide as more vineyards discover its stunning lychee-forward profile. From California’s Sonoma Coast, Gundlach Bundschu makes a wonderfully dry Gewürztraminer that improves with each vintage.
The wine is simultaneously intense and elegant. With each sip, you'll enjoy a fascinating dance of bright acidity with lychee, honeysuckle, and Anjou pear notes with a clean, dry finish. It's a worthy companion to any lamb dish, and best with lots of herbs and spices, like this porchetta-style roast lamb.
Best Cabernet Sauvignon: Truchard Cabernet Sauvignon
Easter dinner is a special occasion, so it's a great excuse to break out a really nice cab sav. This is everyone's favorite red wine varietal for lamb pairings, and all of your guests will appreciate a bottle of Truchard Cabernet Sauvignon. It is a bit of a splurge, but the first taste will prove its value.
The estate-grown cabernet sauvignon grapes mature slowly and have plenty of time to soak up the Napa Valley sun. Similarly, it cellars well, only improving with age; the winery states 10 to 15 years. When you’d like to ensure you always have dry red around for lamb, this is a brilliant choice. Of course, it’s a great match for a rack of lamb with red wine sauce at any time, so there’s no need to wait. You'll enjoy rich red fruit notes—plum, currant, and black cherry—and a stunning array of ripe tannins.
Best Zinfandel: The Seven Deadly Zins Zinfandel
For a nice California Zinfandel, give The Seven Deadly Zins a try. The style is wonderful with lamb, and this particular affordable bottle encapsulates the famous red wine perfectly. That should be no surprise because it’s a blend from seven old-vine zinfandel vineyards in the Lodi AVA of California’s Central Valley, where zin is king. Additionally, it’s an eco-friendly wine that adheres to The LODI Rules of sustainable winemaking.
As the name suggests, this is a seductive wine. It has a full body, accented with delicious jammy fruits and a hint of spice. The dry red pairs strikingly well with a slow-cooked leg of lamb. And, at a great price, you can afford to have an extra bottle ready to make the red wine gravy.
Best Rosé: Bieler Père Et Fils Réserve Rosé
If you're going to have a rosé with lamb, make sure it's from France’s Provençe region and, better yet, Bandol. Other rosés simply don’t have the body or flavor profile to stand up to lamb’s distinct, fatty taste. A fantastic choice is Bieler Père et Fils Réserve Rosé. It is one of the best examples of Provençal rosés you can find, and it's rather affordable.
The key to this perfect pairing is that the wine is predominately made of red wine grapes, specifically grenache, syrah, and cabernet sauvignon. That gives this pink wine a deeper flavor and ensures it has the dry acidity for which the French region is known. It may not work with every lamb dish, but the herbal and strawberry notes are ideal for an aromatic recipe like rosemary garlic lamb shanks.
Best Italian Wine: Rocca delle Macie Chianti Classico Famiglia Zingarelli
Chianti is always a good choice when lamb is on the menu, and Rocca delle Macie specializes in Chianti Classico. From the winery’s award-winning collection, Famiglia Zingarelli is a very nice pick. Grown exclusively on four estates in Castellina, it’s a brilliant red dominated by Sangiovese grapes with a hint of merlot.
It's reasonably priced and has a nice wild-berry fruitiness that everyone at the table is sure to enjoy. This Italian wine is a medium-bodied, semi-dry red, so it's approachable for a variety of wine drinkers. Best served at room temperature, it would be fantastic with Italian grill lamb chops.
Best Spanish Wine: Marqués de Riscal Reserva Rioja
For a budget-friendly red that enhances a lamb dinner, it is difficult to beat Marqués de Riscal Reserva. It's a fantastic model of the red wines produced in Spain's Rioja region and has a price tag that's often less than $20. The primary grape is the much-expected tempranillo, which is prolific in wines from the area. It’s accented by the lesser-known Graciano. Also a specialty of the region, the grape produces a very perfumy wine and rounds off the blend perfectly.
This is a favorite Rioja for many wine aficionados and offers an elegant, complex flavor with a perfect balance of dark fruits, tannins, and acidity. Serve it alongside a stuffed leg of lamb and savor the experience.
Best French White Wine: Château Guiraud Bordeaux Blanc le G
Bordeaux wines are among the best matches for lamb, and while it is best known for reds, white wine lovers will be delighted with this intriguing white Bordeaux. Made from an equal blend of sauvignon blanc and sémillon grapes, Chateau Guiraurd's “G” is an affordable introduction to the producer's very impressive portfolio. It is the driest of its offerings, making this wine an ideal choice for lamb.
It is slightly dry and has a nice acidity that punctuates the citrus notes, which are dominated by grapefruit. Pair it with a rosemary-garlic lamb shoulder and sweet potatoes for an Easter dinner to remember.
Best California Chardonnay: Mark West Chardonnay
Chardonnay is one of the least likely candidates for a lamb-centered meal. However, if you’d like to give it a go without throwing down a lot of money, Mark West Chardonnay is a nice option. This California chardonnay is also easy to find, so it’s the perfect bottle for a pairing experiment.
This chardonnay is slightly dry and acidic and undergoes cool fermentation for three weeks to give it a bright, fresh taste. It holds beautiful fruit notes of citrus, pear, peach, and green apple with a gentle oak. It's a fun option if you want to break from Easter dinner tradition and serve a flavor-packed dish like Moroccan grilled lamb chops.
The Château Grand-Puy-Lacoste Borie Pauillac is our top overall pick because its intriguing blend of dark fruits and spice pairs well with any preparation of lamb—including the classic crown of lamb (view at Drizly). Prefer white? Gundlach Bundschu's dry, brightly acidic gewürztraminer pairs well with lamb dishes seasoned with lots of herbs and spices (view at Drizly).
What to Look for When Buying a Bottle
It's important to know your audience before investing in a bottle or two (or more). If your dinner guests are adventurous, then feel free to buy something a little unusual or bold in flavor; if you feel like a more approachable wine is a safer bet, then choose a bottle that is considered middle of the road.
Lamb can be a costly cut of meat, so keep that in mind when selecting the wine to accompany the meal—especially if you have a budget for this special dinner. You should also consider how many bottles you will need: If one or two, the pricier bottle may be a fine choice, but if you are hosting several guests, or your guests are big drinkers, looking for a wine with a lower price point may be the way to go.
Although all of the wines listed go well with lamb, certain varieties pair best with specific lamb cuts and preparations. For example, roast leg of lamb goes perfectly with a cabernet sauvignon or syrah (shiraz), while young lamb or lamb cutlets shine with a glass of pinot noir or rosé on the side.
How many bottles do I need?
A general rule of thumb is that a 750-milliliter bottle (which is 25 ounces) of wine equals five glasses, but that would mean each glass is only five ounces, which isn't realistic. It is best to estimate four glasses per bottle and then guesstimate how many glasses each guest will drink (don't forget to include yourself). If you are offering the wine before dinner, make sure to add in a few glasses to the total, then divide by four.
If I'm offering different types of wine, is there an order I should serve them?
Perhaps you've decided to try a few of the wines on this list ranging from white to red and light to heavy. Unless you think your guests will choose one type and stick with it the entire night, you should open each bottle in a certain order. Begin with a white wine and any light wine; a dry wine is better to enjoy before a sweet one and a simpler blend before a complex glass.
Do I need to open the bottles and let them breathe?
Exposing wine to air can improve the taste, but that doesn't mean you need to have the bottles open well before your guests arrive. When you think about it, bottles are opened table-side and poured into our glasses at restaurants, so you can do the same around your dining table. If the bottle of wine is aged over 10 years, it will benefit from decanting so any sediment can settle and the flavors can open up.
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Colleen Graham is a food and beverage writer with over a decade of experience writing about cocktails, beer, and wine. She is the author of two books: "Rosé Made Me Do It" and "Tequila: Cocktails With a Kick."