Prime rib (which is sometimes called “standing rib roast”) is a delectable cut of beef that is full of flavor and very tender when cooked properly. Known in some circles as the “king of beef cuts”, this chunk of rib eye attached to the ribs is usually roasted until the center is pink and the outside edges are medium. Prime rib steak is a single serving cut from a prime rib roast and is essentially a rib eye steak with a bone attached.
Wine experts generally agree that prime rib should be served with a fine red wine, but they are not unanimous in the type of wine that works the best. Because of the ample flavor and marbled fat in prime rib, many connoisseurs will opt for a big wine and choose a red Bordeaux from France or a Cabernet Sauvignon from California. In Bordeaux, Cabernet Sauvignon is usually blended with Merlot and Cabernet Franc, while most of the better California Cabernet Sauvignons are not blended. This wine, which is often referred to as the king of red wines, is distinguished by its richness, concentration and depth, and the good ones can age in a cellar for many years.
Merlot is frequently served with prime rib and is the first choice for many gourmet chefs. Merlot grapes are often blended with other grapes (such as Cabernet Sauvignon) in Bordeaux, although Pomerol and Saint-Emillion produce some fine unblended Merlot wines. In the New World, California and Oregon produce a lot of Merlot that is frequently blended with Cabernet Sauvignon. Merlot is generally thought to be lighter and softer than Cabernet Sauvignon.
Another good choice for prime rib is red Burgundy from France and its counterpart from California (and Oregon), Pinot Noir. The best of these wines will provide currant, raspberry and black cherry flavors and an aroma of wilted roses and herbs. These wines tend to have less tannin than Cabernet Sauvignon, which makes them softer on the palette and easier to drink for many people.
Petite Sirah, which is abundant in California, is an intense, flavorful wine with high acidity that easily handles the generous amount of fat typically found in a good cut of prime rib. This wine has firm tannins which soften the weight of the beef, often exhibiting dark berry fruit and black pepper spice flavors.
Many other wines, such as Syrah/Shiraz, Zinfandel, Barolo, and Amarone, will also work well with prime rib. Selecting a wine for prime rib (like any other dish) is a matter of personal taste. Finding the right wine to serve with prime rib is a quest where the journey should be enjoyed as much as the destination.