Ribs And Wine Pairing

It might not be everyone’s favorite, but a meal which we nearly always find delicious and satisfying is ribs.

For a quick answer on which wines will work best with ribs, if you are getting fall of the bones ribs, then these will go best with a red wine like Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Zinfandel, Shiraz, Pinot Noir, or Baco Noir. 

Ribs And Wine Pairing

The main factor which should be influencing your choice in wine pairing should be the combination of sauce and spices which you are using on your ribs. If you are having a slow cooked set of beef short ribs.

Then we recommend a medium bodied red which has a medium tannin. These are perfect if you want something complementary which will not overpower the hard earned flavors you get from slow cooking some juicy ribs. 

This is why we would recommend a medium bodied wine like Shiraz, Bordeaux, or Cabernet Sauvignon for this type of ribs.

If you are having ribs which are in a more acidic tomato sauce, then you are going to want a more acidic wine that will be able to cut through this, options for this include Pinot Noir, Barbera, Chianti Classico, or something like Zinfandel

For something like savory braised short ribs which tend to use earthier herbs or spices like pepper, rosemary, or parsley, then you want a more rustic red or a herbal red to match, this includes options like Syrah, Pinotage, Petite Syrah, Chianti, or Châteauneuf-du-Pape. 

Now if you are having spare ribs then these are more sweet and made using pork, this means you want a more acidic and lower tannin wine, this could be a younger Ribera del Duero, Pinot Noir, Lambruso, Beaujolais Villages, or Zinfandel.

For spicier ribs these will work better with off dry Riesling or even a rose. 

No matter what type of ribs you are going for, in this guide we will go into detail on some of our favorite pairings so you have the best wines to go with your ribs.

Best Wine Pairings For Ribs

As we mentioned in the introduction, keep in mind that different wines will work better with different types of ribs.

Ribs can taste completely different depending on the seasoning and sauce which they are cooked with, as well as the type of meat which is used as well. 

Throughout this guide we are going to try to cover the different types of ribs which are the most common, but we will also give you the information you need on how to pair wine to any type of ribs you could be having even if it is not covered here. 

California Zinfandel & Grilled BBQ Ribs

This wine is seen as one of the best options by BBQ rib enthusiasts, with the fruity and ripe flavors of a Zinfandel perfectly complimenting the strong BBQ flavor you get from ribs.

When you are having grilled ribs in particular, these are usually finished over an open flame and this gives them a delicious flavor which is charred as well as caramelized as well. This goes perfectly with the naturally smokey flavor you get from a Zinfandel. 

Zinfandel is known for having noticeable notes of plum, and black cherry as well as other jammy flavors, all of which give a refreshing contrast to the grilled taste you get from the ribs. 

Spices which are commonly used for a BBQ ribs will usually bring out some of the delicious undertones and aromas you get in a Zinfandel like pepper, cinnamon, chocolate, and smoke. This makes the wine taste even better and the ribs taste better as well.

Also, if your ribs have a tomato based sauce, then the brighter acidity you get from a Zinfandel will bring out the sweet and smoky flavors you will get on the ribs. 

If you were to choose a different red wine which has a higher tannin content like a Bordeaux or a Sauvignon, then this would clash with your BBQ sauce and could end up with it tasting more flat and metallic, this is why Zinfandel strikes such a perfect balance.

Cabernet Sauvignon & Grilled Ribs

Now if we are talking just about grilled ribs, then we have to mention an aged Cabernet Sauvignon being one of the best options out there.

You do want to make sure that the tannin with this wine is more soft to ensure that it does not overpower the grilled flavor you get from the ribs. 

A Cabernet Sauvignon is a more fruity and bold wine which has flavors of black currant and cassis and this beautifully contrasts the more savory and meaty flavors you get from a grilled rib. 

You will also notice notes of vanilla, chocolate black pepper, smoke, leather, and even tobacco which will all complement the grilled meat you are eating.

If you are familiar with ribs then you know that they are a more fatty and flavorful meat, this means that a younger Cabernet Sauvignon will end up wiping out the more subtle flavors of your grilled ribs, this is why we specifically recommend going for an aged more mellow Cabernet Sauvignon. 

This is because the tannin which you get in a Cabernet Sauvignon exists and brings out the flavors of the ribs as well as breaking down the protein of the meat. This means that the rib meat will end up having a more tender texture.

Your ribs will also improve the taste of your Cabernet Sauvignon which is the perfect complementary nature you want between wine and your dish. 

This is because the higher protein and fat content of the food will make the tannin of the wine feel a bit less astringent and this improves the texture of the wine to make it a bit more silky and velvety in comparison.

Australian Shiraz & Beef Short Ribs Pairing

Ribs And Wine Pairing

If you are looking for a crowd pleasing option, then we have to recommend an Australian Shiraz in particular. This goes perfect with beef ribs in particular because of the jammy flavors of blackberry and the more toasty notes of vanilla as well. 

These provide a good balance with the more savory flavors you get with beef short ribs. You will also find that there is a noticeable black pepper presence which will stimulate your taste buds as it merges with the meaty flavor of the ribs.

Northern Rhône Syrah & Braised Baby Back Ribs

If you were not aware, baby back ribs are usually made using pork and they will have a noticeably delicious smoky flavor. This means that the Northern Rhône Syrah from France with its more peppery, smoky, and bacon flavors will complement this perfectly. 

Shiraz and Syrah are frequently compared to each other because they come from the same grape, however, the reason why we recommend the Northern Rhône Syrah in particular is because it is a bit less fruit forward than the Shiraz and it has deeper notes that work well with the spices, herbs and meat. 

This works well with the pork flavors you get from the baby back ribs. You will still get the more refreshing fruity flavors as well, so you can still notice the presence of raspberry, sherry, and blackberry. 

If you are having baby back ribs that are made using a tomato-based BBQ sauce, then you will still find that the Northern Rhône Syrah will still have enough acidity so they do not clash with the sauce as long as there is not too much sauce.

Argentina Malbec & Short Ribs Pairing

You can find with a little research that Argentina is well known for not just their Malbec but also their beef, and it is a lucky coincidence that these two pair together so well in the form of ribs. 

You will love how the Malbec which is medium in both its tannin and its acidity as well will not overwhelm the more tender flavors you get from slow cooked beef short ribs (Also check out The Best Beef Stew & Wine Pairing Options To Try). But it will be complemented by the refreshing flavors you get of black cherry as well as plum. 

If you are getting a Malbec (Also check out Malbec Vs Cabernet Sauvignon) that is from Argentina, there are two main options you can take.

You could go for a more reasonably priced Malbec that will usually set you back around $20, or you could go a little more premium and get a Malbec that has been aged in oak, and this will be around $40. 

You can go with whatever is more in your price range, but if you are unsure if the premium is worth it, we can confirm that the extra depth of flavor you get from the oak aged Malbec is amazing with the extra notes of cocoa and vanilla going well with the grill marks your beef will have. 

You will get even more complex layers of violet, leather, licorice, tobacco, and earth notes as well.

If you go for a younger Malbec, this will seem a little more simple, but it still works well with short ribs since you get some delicious contrasting fruit flavors which work well with the smoky flavor of the short ribs.

Pinot Noir & Dry Rub Ribs Pairing

If you are enjoying ribs that have been seasoned with a more earthy dry rub, then one of the best options is the more subtle Pinot Noir. 

For a dry rub you will want a more subdued wine with elegant flavors like a Pinot Noir, this is because a more boisterous red wine will end up overpowering the more gentle flavors you should be getting from a dry rub. 

You will get brighter flavors from a Pinot Noir like strawberry and cherry, and it has enough flavor that it will hold up the ribs without needing to overshadow them.

You will also get some more earthy aromas from a Pinot Noir and this works well to compliment the spices which are used in most dry rubs. 

We also love the brighter acidity you get from using Pinot Noir as this will lift up the more spicy and meaty flavors you get from this type of ribs, and this furthermore improves the flavor. 

One recommendation we feel we should make when it comes to Pinot Noir is that you should not try and save money when buying. This is because Pinot Noir which costs less than $25 will tend to not reflect on Pinot Noir well.

This is because it is a more challenging wine to grow, and this is why it will usually cost more. If you want something similar but cheaper, then you can go with a Pinotage or a Baco Noir. 

White Wine And Ribs

If you are enjoying ribs that have a more spicy hot rib sauce, then we recommend an off dry Riesling. This is because the extra spicy ribs you can get will be well complimented by the more subtle sweetness you can get from this type of Riesling. 

This will simmer the fire you will feel from the heat of the ribs while letting you appreciate the flavor instead of the heat as much too.


Hopefully this guide has given you all the information you need about what types of wine will work best with different types of ribs.

As you can see the best option depends wildly on the way you are cooking your ribs, as well as the meat which is used, and what type of sauce you use as well.

Sarah Perez
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