Italian red wines for steak, venison, pork or lamb

Top tips for your summer barbecue and more

Italian Food and Wine Pairing / Italian red wine for steak, pork, venison or lamb

Are you looking for the best wine for steak? Or perhaps a bottle of red wine for pork to drink at this weekend’s barbecue? Although red wine and meat may be a classic pairing, finding the right wine for the type of meat you’re cooking can be an art form. As well as thinking about the texture and taste of the meat, it’s also important to consider the sauce or marinade you’re serving it with.

Whether you’re firing up your barbecue for a summer get-together or gathering indoors over a classic Sunday roast, we’ve spoken to some leading food bloggers for some tips on which Italian wines work with a range of meat.

Wine for Steak

Throwing a steak on the barbecue is an easy way to take things to the next level. Happily, it’s a very wine-friendly choice, especially if it’s well-salted. This can help to soften the tannins of bold red wines and create the impression of a fuller body. If you’re serving steak, it’s the perfect opportunity to break out your most tannic reds.

Food blogger Simone Ribeiro of Midlands Traveller recommends marinating tenderloin steak in garlic and rosemary. She serves it with a side of sweet potato mash, and a bottle of Ridolfi Rosso di Montalcino. She says:

“Despite being a less dry Montalcino when compared to the Brunello itself, it’s a forward and intense wine that asks for something more substantial like a steak or lamb. It could work well with pizza or hot dog too.”

Sliced Grilled Beef Steak on a plate with rosemary herb and fried tomatoes
Bottle of red wine Ridolfi Rosso di Montalcino 2018

Sandy Cadiz-Smith of Eating Covent Garden has another wine for steak recommendation. She suggests Ridolfi Fiero 2017 – a Super Tuscan wine with complex aromas of berries, cedar, and chocolate. She serves it with her home-made Monkey Gland sauce – a tangy onion and tomato condiment from South Africa. In her opinion, this wine is “an absolutely perfect companion” to this classic barbecue (or braai) dish:

It’s a mix of Merlot from Chianti (60%) and Sangiovese from Montalcino (40%). And it’s delicious with its beautifully intense plummy flavours and a smooth, long finish. An absolutely perfect companion to our grilled steak dinner with Monkey Gland sauce.

Our red wine for steak picks also work well with roast beef, so as the weather gets cooler it’s worth having a few bottles on-hand for Sunday dinners.

Bottle of red wine Ridolfi Super Tuscan IGT 2017

Wine for lamb

Lamb has a very rich, distinctive flavour so it’s worth choosing a big bold wine that can stand up to it. If you’re throwing some marinated lamb steaks on the barbecue, Fiona MacLean from London Unattached recommends Gagliole Organic Super Tuscan 2017. Its smoothly integrated flavours of blackberry and smoke make it a lovely wine for lamb cooked on a grill, as it complements the charred meat taste. It’s also powerful enough to work well with strong flavours such as garlic and Italian herbs too. Fiona says:

“…the sweet, full-flavoured lamb pairs beautifully with this berry-rich and delicious wine. It’s the kind of wine which really exemplifies ‘Super Tuscan’ and for me demonstrates why we should not necessarily pass the IGT denomination by.”

Flame grilled lamb ribs on a wooden board with roasted tomatoes, corn and rosemary herb
Bottle of organic Super Tuscan red wine Gagliole 2017 Colli Della Toscana Centrale IGT

For something spicier, such as leg of lamb with Moroccan spices, Sandy Cadiz-Smith recommends Kurtatsch Curtis Merlot Cabernet from Alto Adige. She says:

Delicate Moroccan flavours match wonderfully with this stunning Italian blend…The perfect pairing for the Kurtausch Curtis 2018 Merlo Cabernet Alto Adige. This red wine is crafted by Kurtatsch in the Dolomite Alps in the German-speaking part of Italy. It’s similar to a Bordeaux blend, made from 60% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Franc and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon. It’s a beautifully rounded wine with aromas of blackcurrant and blackberry, plenty of body and a lovely long finish. A wonderful companion to my spiced, tender lamb.

She serves it with a fresh crunchy salad filled with cucumber, radish and yellow pepper. Perfect for sunny days in the garden.

Bottle of red wine Kurtatsch Curtis 2018 Merlot Cabernet Alto Adige DOC

Wine for pork (or wild boar)

Grilled wild boar is very traditional in Tuscany. If you can’t get your hands on any in the UK, these recipes and wine pairing suggestions work just as well with pork. Fiona MacLean has fond memories of dining on wild boar tenderloin stuffed with mushroom during a trip to Chianti, and suggests making something similar.

The first time I ate wild boar was in Tuscany…I remember one meal in Chianti where I feasted on a mushroom stuffed wild boar tenderloin.  That is this inspiration for my recipe for wild boar steaks with mushroom in red wine…This Chianti from Castello di Radda reminds me of that trip.  Silky smooth, fresh and elegant it’s a delicious mouthful of red fruit with a lovely leathery note, light oak and smooth tannins.  The wine is made by the Beretta family at their vineyard in Radda which is just 10 miles north of where we were staying.

Rather than stuffing, pop your pork steaks on the barbecue (or on a griddle) and serve them with a red wine and cream sauce. The wine pairing is, naturally, Castello di Radda Chianti Classico DOCG. Decanter describes this wine as having “a suave floral and smoky nose, sweet black fruit flavours, smooth tannins, lively acidity and integrated alcohol.”

Grilled pork chops on a plate with green chives, herbs, barbecue sauce and slices of bread
Bottle of Italian red wine Castello di Radda 2017 Chianti Classico DOCG

Another way to eat wild boar or pork this summer is in a traditional ragu. Served over pappardelle pasta, it’s perfect for al-fresco suppers. This rich and deep sauce is simmered slowly, and is worth making a day ahead so that all of the flavours can combine. That way you can simply reheat it, and spend your evening enjoying company rather than in the kitchen. Such a bold dish deserves a big wine, and Fiona MacLean’s pick is Orlandi Contucci Ponno, La Regia Specula 2017 – a Montepulciano d’Abruzzo DOCG wine. Filled with juicy berry, white pepper and smoky notes, it’s a lovely wine for pork and a fabulous companion to such a rich meal. Fiona explains why she picked this wine from Abruzzo:

“Although we tend to associate Italian wild boar recipes with Tuscany, hunting and eating cinghiale is common in many rural parts of the country.  Abruzzo, with it’s massive and famous national park, in the centre of the Apennines, is well-populated with wild boar. “

Bottle of red wine Orlandi Contucci Ponno La Regia Specula 2017 Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Colline Teramane DOCG

Wine for Venison

Game meats like venison also call for bold wines. If you’re planning to spend your day outside exploring the great outdoors, nothing beats coming home to a hearty venison stew that’s been simmering in the slow cooker. As well as garlic, red wine and woody herbs like rosemary and thyme, this stew is also spiced with juniper berries. These strong flavours deserve a standout wine, and Fiona MacLean of London Unattached recommends Ridolfi Brunello di Montalcino DOCG as an excellent wine for venison. She says it is:

“soft but full of flavour with bold tannins and lots of red fruit. It’s a special occasion wine that I’d love to drink every day – and has plenty of depth to pair with the venison shanks.”

Roasted venison with mushrooms and potatoes and cranberry sauce
Bottle of Italian red wine Ridolfi Brunello di Montalcino DOCG 2015

Wine for Rabbit

Our final summer wine and meat pairing will instantly transport you to the sun-soaked island of Sicily. Coniglio Alla Stimpirata is a flavoursome rabbit stew filled with fresh Mediterranean vegetables and mint. It has a sweet and sour taste which works really with Nero d’Avola. The signature red grape of Sicily, it’s full-bodied with plenty of tannins that can handle dishes with lots going on. Fiona MacLean’s recommendation is the 306 Biologico Nero d’Avola from Salvatore Tamburello. Fiona speaks why she though this wine would be the perfect match:

Coniglio Alla Stimpirata as a pairing for a rather special bottle of Nero d’Avola that I’ve been sent. Very much the grape of Sicily, it’s named after the town of Avola on the south-east coast of the island, though the grape is planted across the island these days.  Sicily has a hot Mediterranean climate – I was there in November and could swim in the sea and easily get sunburnt. A little like Syrah, the wine has high tannins and lots of body.

This particular wine was also featured in The Independent newspaper, who described it as having

“concentrated but lush and silky black-fruit flavours and real poise and elegance on the palate.”

Rabbit stew with roasted vegetables, forest mushrooms and wild hunting
Bottle of organic red wine 306 Nero d'Avola Biologico 2017 Sicilia DOC

Choose the right wine with next day delivery

There are some basic rules to remember when you’re pairing wine with meat. For example more tannic wines work well with salty dishes. Another rule to remember is that if there’s a lot going on in your sauce or marinade, you’ll need a more complex wine. After all, you don’t want to risk the food overpowering the drink – or vice versa!

Of course it’s all down to personal taste, and it’s well worth experimenting. You might just discover a new ideal match.