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Best Wine With Prime Rib: Great Pairings & Top Tips That Go Well With It


Last Updated: May 9, 2024

Most of the time, it’s challenging to stay on top of all the holiday planning and preparation. Between all the gift shopping, decorating the house, and dinner parties, I think it’s safe to say how we’re in a busy time of the year. 

‘Tis the season!

It is the season for enjoying the red wines and casseroles, the luscious holiday roast, and smoked hams that beg for the perfect glass of wine. If you’re wondering what the best wine goes with prime rib or what side dishes to serve, then look no further because you landed on the right page!

By the time you finish reading this article, you'll know more about what a prime rib is, including how to buy and cook one. Furthermore, you will discover more mouthwatering prime rib recipes and understand what wine goes with prime rib to ensure your holiday roast is a complete success.

What Is A Prime Rib?

As some would call it, the prime rib, or a standing rib roast, is a traditional roast beef serving from the primal rib section. The prime rib is the most expensive, the tastiest, and the most tender beef cut. 

The prime rib is famous for being the jewel in the crown of the meat world. But if we'd go more in-depth to what it really is or fully understand its origin, this is when the butcher carves the cow into eight “primal” sections.

Each section will then go off for further cutting, usually in thick slices. It’s also essential to know that not all prime rib comes bone-in. Aside from enhancing a prime rib's flavor and moisture, it is the bone that also makes roasting a lot easier.

What Does “Prime” Mean?

There are different kinds of beef grade. It is worth noting prime rib only refers to the cut and has nothing to do with the USDA prime grading, which is about the meat’s quality. In this article, we will only cover the top three quality ratings which you will often see in local supermarkets:

USDA Prime Grade

The quantity of fat within the meat's tasty sections and the cow's age is what the USDA inspectors look for when assessing and assigning beef grades. For those who aren’t familiar, USDA means the United States Department of Agriculture.

It means prime beef is juicy and flavorful with a decent amount of fat that distributes well throughout the meat as it cooks, keeping it tender. The more flavor and moisture the beef has, the higher its grade from USDA.

Beef cattle ranging from nine to thirty months old or younger are what USDA considers prime because they have the most tender meat.

USDA Choice Grade

It is beef with exceptional quality, just like prime but one with slightly less fat marbling (or bits of fat in the meat.) Choice beef only has four to ten percent of fat that distributes well throughout the muscle rather than just a fat layer on the perimeter. 

Lesser fat content also means that choice-grade meat is less juicy than prime, but it’s something that proper cooking techniques can fix. USDA assigns this grade to very young beef between nine to ninety-six months. You can purchase this kind of meat from restaurants and grocery stores for a reasonably affordable price.


The select beef-grade has the advantage of broader availability in retail markets than the first two grades, prime and choice. It has leaner beef cuts and a lot less marbling, with a fat content of only two to four percent.

While this meat still has an acceptable quality, you could expect that lesser fat content means that you should defer it for moist heat cooking methods like steaming, braising, or poaching. This beef-grade might be drier and less supple, but it is a popular choice for health-conscious consumers.

Remember that not all beef comes with a grade from USDA because the grading process is spontaneous and not a requirement.

Choosing And Buying The Best Prime Rib

Regardless of the USDA grade, you would have the option to choose the kind of cut you want when purchasing a prime rib. A whole roast can weigh between 14 and 22 pounds, so you may request the butcher for only a certain number of ribs if a whole one is not what you need:

The First Cut: Loin End Or Ribs 10 - 12

The rib section’s loin end is smaller in overall size but has a larger rib eye that is desirable for most consumers because it is tender. It has less fat and more meat.

The Second Cut: Chuck End Or Ribs 6 - 9

It is the large end or the one that is bigger in overall size with a smaller rib eye. It also has more fat, so most cooks still prefer it to the first cut because fat adds flavor.

Cooking A Prime Rib

Here are some other helpful tips on how to prepare and cook prime beef:

  • Scrape the meat from its bones before dressing it, and then fasten the ribs back before roasting.
  • Scoring the fat cap will also help in better penetration of the seasonings.
  • Vertically stacking the ribs allows the flavor to go down to the entire joint when cooking.
  • Using salt is not just for seasoning but also because it softens the meat. It also helps in retaining moisture while cooking. The use of Kosher salt is the most ideal than using table salt because it has larger grains that make even distribution a lot easier.
  • You will need an ample amount of flavoring if the cut is thick.
  • Aside from salt, you may also use minced garlic and concentrated herbs.
  • Leave it with no cover and refrigerate after seasoning with salt. Air-dry the exterior after seasoning.
  • The most crucial step you can’t miss is ensuring that the meat is at room temperature before putting it in the oven.
  • Loosely cover the meat for two to three hours or until it reaches room temperature.
  • Apply a high amount of heat for a short time until the exterior shows a brown crust.
  • Roast at a low temperature until you thoroughly cook it. Roasting at a low temperature that gradually increases until you hit the desired serving temperature is the Reverse Sear process.
  • Carve into thin, even slices and serve. Carve only the portions that you need. It is best to leave the rest of the roast intact to maintain its flavorful juices.

Best Prime Rib Recipes

Roasting with as minimal ingredients as possible is the best way to enjoy your prime rib to its fullest. Here are some simple recipes that you can try this holiday season:

How Does A Prime Rib Taste?

The prime rib has a pronounced rich flavor similar to that of beef’s meat, only stronger. With the right amount of marbling and cap of fat, the prime rib is a rich piece of flavorful meat.

Tips On Choosing The Best Wine For Prime Rib

Now that you know how to buy, prepare, and cook a prime rib, the next thing that would probably come to mind is the best wine pairing with prime rib is. Here are some reminders that you need to consider:

  • Flavor intensity, the kind of cut, and how you cook your prime rib are vital details you need to look at when choosing prime rib wine pairing.
  • For most beef meals, the meat’s cut and flavor are crucial factors to consider when pairing it with wine. Grilled beef has more flavor, so a rich, tannic red would help balance its taste. 
  • All your prime rib’s delectable fat needs some acid to cut through it. A structured red wine will do wonders in complementing your prime rib’s flavor.
  • Full-bodied red wines can potentially overpower the dish, while a light-bodied wine may not be strong enough to complement the meat.
  • Due to the mutual reaction between the meat’s protein and the wine’s tannins, red wine will undoubtedly taste good with beef.
  • Keep your dish simple if you plan to serve an older vintage.
  • Meat with leaner cuts will match perfectly with aged red wine, while those with more decadent amounts will do well with a more concentrated and tannic red.

Top Wine Picks For Prime Rib

Cabernet Sauvignon

It has nice savory notes of dried herbs to complement the prime rib’s rich flavor. This wine will shine especially for recipes like Au Jus and Perfect Creamy Horseradish Sauce because of its fruity flavor. Cabernet is best to drink with food because of its strong tannins that can make the mouth feel dry.


This wine also has a powerful tannin but without the heavy oak. It has hints of spicy herbs and flavoring that will pair well with a prime rib. It has hints of spicy seasonings, a balanced character, and a dressing that pairs well with a tender prime rib. Mourvedre does wonders, most especially for spicy beef meals, because it puts out the fire without compromising the meat’s flavor.


It is a product of highly tannic Nebbiolo grapes and ideal for aging. A vintage Barolo makes a bold choice for pairing with dry-aged prime rib. It is best to pair with beef stroganoff without cream.


The fruit and tannins in this wine won’t overwhelm a lean cut of meat, but instead, it will work beautifully with its rich flavors. It’s indisputably the best match for leaner cuts of beef like roast tenderloin and in a pan-seared fillet.


Its hint of plum, garlic, and tobacco can enhance the prime rib’s flavors. Try for its varieties in Washington, California, Argentina, and France. This wine is exceptionally famous for its lighter but more subtle drop. Remember that beef with more fat content makes it the best pair for richer and bolder wines.


A lean meal like prime rib will make a good match with a tannic wine that has notes of pepper, berries, tobacco, and smoke, such as Syrah. It has a robust spicy and fruity flavor that also matches well with horseradish sauce in any beef recipe.


It has a concentrated, fruity flavor with some tannic grit that can wash out the prime rib’s fat in every bite. Zinfandel makes an ideal pair with beef meals like fillet mignon. It also makes an excellent pair for recipes with enticingly sweet flavors of barbecue sauce and onions.

Taste Test: Not everyone could afford prime ribs because they're quite pricey and require meticulous attention when preparing and cooking. You can, however, still make the season bright with other cuisines outside of prime ribs and at a lesser cost together with your best wine! Read more about this here -- Barolo Food Pairing: 6 Partner Cuisines To Wet Up Your Diet.

Frequently Asked Questions

Prime rib sits beside a bottle of fine wine

The Kind Of Wines That Go With Prime Rib

Does Pinot Noir go with Prime Rib?

Most diners would probably suggest cabernet first when you order for a prime rib. But Pinot Noir is a more relaxed wine with hints of red and blackberries and spices. It also has a subtle aroma that won’t pound your palate. This wine makes a rich companion to the prime rib.

Does Malbec go with Prime Rib?

Yes, Malbec makes an excellent match for a hearty roast of prime rib. It is a bold wine that can hold up to the meat’s rich flavor and even complement it.

What's the Best Wine to Pair with Prime Rib?

Prime rib is undeniably the most tender and flavorful beef cut, which is why its best match should be a wine that will never fall short against all that flavor. Most people would say Cabernet is a good pair for prime rib but Petite Sirah also deserves a second look for this matter. It is rich in flavors of dark berry and a kick of black pepper spice. It has firm tannins, which makes a perfect match for a thick slice of prime rib.

Key Takeaways:

Now you have everything you need to know about a prime rib and its reputation for great flavor and a smooth texture. The best thing about prime rib is that it offers you a wide range of flexibility. Hopefully, all these insights and pairing recommendations will help you find the best wine for your holiday roast. Have a great and stress-free holiday season ahead!

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