The Best Wine Pairing For Juicy Lamb Chops

Nailing the wine pairing can be all it takes to elevate your dining experience — and few dinners are as inherently elevated to begin with as Frenched, pan-seared lamb chops. Lamb's tasting profile can fall somewhere between game meat and beef: tender, high-fat, and mineral-dense. But, the proverbial "cream of the crop" is the lamb chop, the best and most tender cut from the top part of the back attached to the ribs, aka "the rack of lamb." These chops have "chops" of their own, boasting the mild-yet-rich flavor that gives steakhouses in Midtown Manhattan the agency to charge $80 a plate. Luckily, for the rest of us, lamb chops aren't too tough for discerning-palated foodies to make well at home, and we have a few tips to help with that.

Thanks to lamb chops' delicate flavor and texture, a softer wine can make a good fit for completing the meal, but it must retain a powerful body. A good wine should be able to stand up to the richness of the lamb without competing with it. With all of these factors in mind, my top two wine picks for pairing with lamb chops are both French: mature Bordeaux and Grenache-based Provence Rosé. As a career bartender, my secret hope is that the gastronomic glamor of the lamb-chop-rosé pairing is enough to deflate elitist rosé haters once and for all ... or something like that. Shooting for the stars here, but no less passionate.

Bordeaux is the way to go

Lamb and Bordeaux is a classic pairing for a reason. Bordeaux is medium-to-full-bodied with moderate acidity, offering the harmonious balance of fruitiness and firm tannins necessary to complement and keep up with lamb chops' unique brand of understated boldness. If you happen to live near a particularly well-stocked wine shop, look for a Bordeaux in a cabernet sauvignon dominant variety. This style features the ripe, dark fruit flavor and earthy undertones that will showcase the mouth-watering char on the lamb chops. 

Michel de Montaigne Bergerac 2019 is a budget-friendly Bordeaux (around $20) from Southwest France, but don't let the low price point fool you. This vino is robust and dark-fruited with a balanced yet powerful body. If you're down to splurge, Domaine de Chevalier 2019 ($89.99) is the perfect fit for the job: peppery and red fruit-froward with graphite, licorice, and a 65% cabernet sauvignon bill for intense depth.

If Bordeaux isn't your style (or cannot be tracked down in your local wine shop), opt for Tuscan chianti, which features tasting notes near-exact to the profile of lamb chops: dried herbs, vinegar, smoke, and game. Tenuta di Capraia Chianti Classico Riserva 2018 ($30) is perfectly savory with top notes of oregano, tobacco, and cherry. To complete the meal, pair your lamb chops and red wine with fittingly smoky sides. Sauteed asparagus and shallots, garlic broccolini, or crispy lemon pepper potatoes would all function beautifully.

Make way for rosé

When you think of lamb chops, red wine probably seems like the natural pairing, but a chilled rosé can be just as delicious and impressive. Don't get it twisted — rosés are often confused with blush wines, which are always sweet; rosé and blush wine are not the same thing.

Rosé can be brighter and more refreshing than many white wines, with perhaps the exception of sweeter varieties like riesling. However, this sweetness is not always welcome when pairing wine and food, and it would be less-than-remarkable alongside a lamb chop dinner. Rosé is the best fit for the job because it retains that refreshing brightness and delicate effervescence that prevent the entree from sitting too heavily while also retaining a dry, pungent flavor profile (not to mention that the pink hue of the wine would look aesthetically stunning beside a platter or perfectly pink lamb chops).

Opt for a Grenache-based Provence Rosé, like dry, smooth Chateau d'Esclans' Whispering Angel (about $26) or fruitier Cellier des Dauphins Les Dauphins Grenache-Syrah Rosé ($11) from Cotes du Rhone, France. If you want more green crunch from your rosé, Château La Coste ($25) of Provence offers a firm tannic structure and expressive terroir. To finish the dinner, pair your lamb chops and rosé wine with subtler, brighter sides like creamy polenta, mashed celery root, pesto-inspired mint chimichurri, Niçoise salad, assorted capers and green olives, or a spread of soft cheeses.