Written by: Tim Edison

Updated on: August 8, 2022

6 Best Prime Rib and Wine Pairings [Unmissable Wines!]

If you're in need of a wine pairing suggestion for prime rib then we've got your back. We recommend six excellent bottles to take your meal to another level.

Cooked prime rib to be served

What do chefs, wine connoisseurs, and food lovers have in common? They all say prime rib goes best with red wine!

Prime rib and red wine are a match made in heaven because the extra tannins in the wine soften the fat and tenderize the meat, releasing its full flavor potential.

Additionally, fats in the meat lessen the wine's acidity, making it taste smoother.

Simply put, prime rib tastes better with red wine, and vice versa. 

However, not all reds are equal – you want the right medium-bodied red to ensure all those meaty juices aren’t overpowered. 

Join us below to discover the best prime rib and wine pairings. We promise you won't be disappointed!


What Exactly is Prime Rib?

Prime rib is the king of beef because it is the tenderest, juiciest, and most flavorful cut.

It is from a cow's rib rack, cut from the sixth to the twelfth rib, with single portions cut between that joint and served on the bone or off. 

The first cut from the hind of the standing rib near the loin is considered the prized cut, but any section of prime rib is full of flavor. 

Prime rib on board

Each portion consists of a large "eye" of meat in the middle with rich, flowing juices, surrounded by fat-marbled muscle and a fat cap. It’s offered bone-in or bone-out – we prefer bone-in because it insulates the meat. 

Another critical distinction is that "prime rib" is only labeled prime if graded by the USDA (if it isn't graded, it is usually classed as a rib roast). 

Choosing prime rib over rib roast guarantees a few minimum standards – that the meat comes from a cow no more than 30 months old and that the cut is heavily marbled with at least 10% intramuscular fat for tender, juicy meat.


What Kind of Wine Pairs with Prime Rib?

Prime rib is full of delicious fat, usually enhanced with dry aging, instilling it with a funky, nutty, and almost earthy flavor. 

All that fat is glorious, but it doesn't go down perfectly without something acidic to cut through it and cleanse the palate. This is where red wine comes in. 

Red wine is full of tannins, which are bitter and astringent. That bitterness offsets the fat and enhances the meat's flavor profile. 

Tannins add balance, complexity, and structure to prime rib, while fats in the meat lessen the wine's acidity, making it smoother and less bold. 

Now, you can also go further when pairing red wine with prime rib by considering the wine's terroir – the land where the vineyards grow. 

Pairing meat and wine from the same region might sound like overkill, but many of the world's finest restaurants go into such nuances to stand out.


Best Wines for Prime Rib

Prime rib needs a certain wine to release that full flavor. Thankfully, there are a few wines that fit the flavor profile required.

These are the best wine pairings for prime rib according to Wine Turtle.


Syrah

Man O’War, Dreadnought Syrah, Waiheke, Auckland, New Zealand 2017

Syrah is a rich, fruit-forward red wine with blueberry and blackberry notes and a peppery finish. It's responsible for dark, inky red wines with firm tannins, with the medium to full body pairing perfectly with prime rib. 

The Syrah grape originates from southern France as a cross between Dureza and Mondeuse Blanche, but it is grown worldwide in various climates. 

Chile, Argentina, and Washington State are a few examples, with grapes from each region having different characteristics. 

Syrah from cool climates has greater minerality with less fruitiness, so these tend to lean towards savory with a medium body. Look for varieties from cooler regions of France, like the Northern Rhone, Argentina, and Washington State. 

Our Recommendation: The 2017 Man O'War Dreadnought from Auckland, New Zealand (pictured) is an excellent bottle of Syrah that pairs beautifully with fatty red meat like prime rib. With 18 months in a barrel, there are are wonderful peppery notes that enhance the dark fruit. A lovely minerality with chalky tannins help keep the palate fresh.


Petite Sirah

Stags' Leap Winery Petite Sirah 2018

Petite Sirah is a small grape variety borne from a cross between Peloursin and Syrah, the former being a rare French grape variety. This wine has a chewy, plummy flavor shrouded in smoky and leathery tones, giving it a deep profile. 

We love Petite Syrah with prime rib because it is high in tannins and acidity, cutting through the fat and rich meat juices.

While Syrah is more measured in tannins and acidity, Petite Sirah goes big, making it perfect with dry-aged prime rib. 

California and Australia produce the most Petite Sirah, with Chile and Mexico also growing it in abundance and producing some of the world's finest wines. 

We recommend trying wines from the Central Valley and North Coast of California, with the Mediterranean climate producing flavorful grapes. 

Our Recommendation: The Stags' Leap Winery Petite Sirah, 2018 from Napa Valley is a wonderful wine that pairs exceptionally well with beef. With dark berries firmly at its core, smooth tannins and peppery notes combine perfectly to make this a Petite Sirah to remember.


Rioja Gran Reserva

campo viejo gran reserva

Rioja Gran Reserva is a dark red wine high in acidity and tannins, made in aged oak barrels for an intense, leathery profile with a medium to full body. 

Gran Reserva is the crème de la crème, with extended oak aging to bring out the dark fruity flavors. It enjoys a broad range of flavors depending on how long it's aged, with vanilla and spicy flavors characteristics of higher-quality varieties. 

This wine goes perfectly with prime rib because it's dry and acidic, helping balance the fat without tainting it with sweetness. The char of grilled meat also flows wonderfully with this wine, developing an earthiness and musk. 

The Rioja grape is grown in North Central Spain in the regions of La Rioja, Pais Vasco, and Navarra. There isn't a huge difference, although grapes from vineyards on the high slopes of Sierra Cantabria ripen late, creating a jam-like flavor. 

Our Recommendation: The Campo Viejo Gran Reserva (pictured) is a great Rioja wine that doesn't break the bank. Despite aging for years in oak, it still retains its fruity character alongside the smoky and spicy oak notes.


Malbec

Don Tomas Argentinian Malbec 2018

If you're unsure what wine to pair with prime rib, you can't go wrong with a medium-bodied Malbec. Malbec has copious blackberry, plum, and cherry flavors, peppery and smoky notes with extended aging. 

An Argentinian Malbec is our recommendation, and best of all, it's usually cheaper than Syrah. We love Malbec with fatty beef dishes like prime rib, but it's just as good with lean meat dishes like top sirloin and flank steak. 

Most Malbec is full-bodied and highly acidic. However, it doesn't overpower the fatty flavors of prime rib because it has moderate tannins. 

Of all red wines, we find Malbec the most versatile when it comes to beef dishes. Choose it in a restaurant, and you won't be disappointed. 

Our Recommendation: The Don Tomas Argentinian Malbec 2018 (pictured), was just built for steak and ribs. It's often available at Aldi at a really great price too.


Cabernet Sauvignon

Cultivar, Cabernet Sauvignon, USA, 2018

Cabernet Sauvignon is an unusual red because it's big on savory flavors, with bell pepper, herbs, wood, and earth undertones. It has medium tannins, medium acidity, and a dark fruit profile complementing prime rib beautifully. 

Because it's bold and fruity, Cabernet Sauvignon is a robust red, cutting through dry-aged prime rib and bringing out all that meaty goodness. 

However, we don't recommend Cabernet Sauvignon with unaged prime rib, which has more delicate flavors that call for a milder wine like Malbec.

Our favorite Cabernet Sauvignon comes from Chile, but you can also pick up great bottles from USA, Argentina, South Africa, Spain, and New Zealand. 

Our Recommendation: Cultivar, Cabernet Sauvignon, California, USA, 2018 (pictured) is amazing with beef in general but especially prime rib. It has an impressive balance that you don't often find at this price.



Barolo

Damiliano Barolo Cannubi 2016

We end our prime rib and wine recommendations with a wild card – Barolo. Barolo wine is aged in oak casks for at least 38 months, which imparts a classic 'tar and rose' aroma with decadent flavors of dried fruit, fig, truffles, and leather. 

You can also get Barolo Riserva, which is aged for at least 62 months. The longer the aging, the more tannins the wine has. 

Regular Barolo is our recommendation because it has moderate to high tannins and robust acidity – perfect for dry-aged prime ribs. 

The Barolo wine region is one of Italy's most famous DOCG regions, with UNESCO World Heritage status.

It’s an exclusive wine, making it highly prized and usually more expensive than other red varieties, but it’s well worth it for special occasions.  

Our Recommendation: This one is a bit of a splurge compared to our previous recommendations but the Damiliano Barolo Cannubi 2016 (pictured) is a pretty special wine that we thought needed a mention. Made from the highest quality grapes, the intense aromas of tobacco and plum are to die for!


Do you have a "go to" wine for when you eat prime rib? We'd love to hear what you think in the comments section!


About the Author Tim Edison


Tim started Wine Turtle way back in 2015.
These days he contributes to Wine Turtle (and other renowned wine publications) while continuing his wine education.
Tim's wine of the month is the Coates & Seely Reserve Brut NV (from Hampshire, England).

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