The Expert-Approved Wine Pairing For Lamb Chops

Lamb chops can be a great way to mark a special celebration, or simply shake up your normal dinner routine. Full of flavor that can range from sweet to savory to gamey, this popular cut can stand up to bold flavorings and side dishes, so you can imagine that assertive wines are the best beverage to serve with them. Food Republic asked Matt Strauch, Sommelier and General Manager of Noble Riot, which wines he would recommend pairing with a plate of juicy chops. 

You have a lot of options when choosing a vino for your lamb, but Strauch makes it clear that stronger varieties are the common denominator, saying, "Lamb chops pair wonderfully with medium to full-bodied red wines due to their rich and savory flavor profile." He adds that you should steer clear of "lighter-bodied or overly delicate wines," whose nuances could be blotted out by the intense flavor of a lamb chop. Instead, Strauch recommends wines with "earthy and textural" tasting notes, "smoky undertones," and a good amount of tannins.

These wine varieties pair best with lamb

Fruit-forward wines with some backbone can stand up to lamb chops, and you shouldn't be afraid to opt for something tannic. Tannins, the tart and bitter compounds in wine that make your mouth feel dry, easily cut through fatty meats for a balanced, palate-cleansing effect. Matt Strauch recommends a Merlot Bordeaux or a Cabernet Sauvignon as all-purpose partners for lamb. There's a lot to learn about Merlot and the ever-popular Cabernet Sauvignon, but a fact you can always count on is that they're fruity crowd-pleasers that play well with strong flavors. Given their popularity, these bottles are also easy to come by.

If you want a less predictable wine on your table, Strauch points to a "Syrah from Cote-Rotie or Cornas, or perhaps a Mourvèdre-based blend from Southern France." Syrah, also known as Shiraz, is widely produced in Australia, but there are also beautifully aromatic varietals from the Rhône Valley in France. Mourvèdre, which is known as Monastrell in Spain and Mataro in California, is generally blended with other grape varietals like Grenache and Syrah, creating both savory and fruity notes. You're likely to find Mourvèdre-heavy blends labeled as Bandol, named for the region in France where they are often produced.

Grilled vs. roasted lamb pairings

The ideal wine pairing also depends on how you cook your lamb. Lamb has a strong, earthy, umami-driven taste that's sometimes even musky or grassy. While you can take an extra step to make lamb less gamey, fans of it like to embrace this flavor, and grilling and roasting are two popular ways to bring it out. Grilling has the bonus of adding a hit of smoke, while if you roast your chops, it will highlight the rich, fatty nuances of the lamb, but with a more subtle taste overall.

Matt Strauch says that grilled lamb chops can handle wines with "a bit more intensity and complexity," like a Malbec or smokier Australian Shiraz, while roasted lamb chops might want for something with "structure and elegance," like a Tuscan Sangiovese. He also offered a wild card pick for lamb pairings: a Pinot Meunier. Most commonly used as a blending grape, a wine made of 100% Pinot Meunier has a lighter red color than Strauch's other picks, but also a fascinating mixture of earthy and fruity notes. It might not be as easy to find as a Cab Sauv, but it will definitely make your guests feel intrigued.