Pairing Wines With Red Meat
Is there anything more delicious than a savory, juicy steak grilled to perfection? Just imagine that choice cut of meat, perfectly seasoned, impossibly tender, and ready to be devoured. What could possibly make this steak even better? That’s right, pairing it with the perfect glass of wine. We’ll give you a moment to take in the savory grandeur of such a moment.
You may be familiar with the old saying that red wine pairs best with red meats. Well, that’s true, but there’s a bit more to it than that. Selecting the right wine to pair with your steak can enhance the complexities and flavors of the wine and the cut of meat. After reading this blog, you will feel like a bonafide connoisseur of wine and steak pairings, ready to grill, sip, and savor for yourself.
Why Does Wine Pair Well With Steak?
Steak and wine, especially red wine, are popular food companions – and for good reason. The rich, smoky, savory flavors of red meat tend to overpower the more delicate essences of lighter wines like rosé or sauvignon blanc. In contrast, the bold notes of a red wine stand up to the equally bold flavors of a steak. The flavor harmony of this pairing works thanks to the balance of the tannin content in red wine with the rich, fatty flavor in red meat.
Tannins and the richness of steak are a match made in foodie heaven. The tannins of a red wine cut through the fatty, buttery flavors of savory red meat. At the same time, the rich taste of steak balances the “dry” feeling of a high-tannin wine, giving it a smoother, more silky texture. They bring out the best qualities in each other, kind of like two friends who routinely finish each other’s sentences. Does a pair get much better than that? We think not.
Best Wine and Steak Pairings
A good rule of thumb for pairing steaks with wine is that lean cuts pair well with lighter reds, while fattier cuts pair well with more robust reds. That being said, we’ve created a helpful pairing list to refer to the next time you get a craving that only steak and wine can satisfy.
Ribeye steaks are rich and tasty with a bold, savory flavor. This cut of meat is tender and has a lot of delicious marbling throughout. A steak this flavorful needs to be accompanied by a wine that is equally as flavorful. Reach for a bold California Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, or Zinfandel to round out this ribeye pairing.
Lean, tender, and oh-so revered, filet mignon is the creme de la creme of steaks. The delicate taste of this cut demands a less intense red to accompany its light flavor profile. A Bordeaux or Washington Merlot are both exquisite companions for this posh steak selection.
New York Strip
New York Strip (or Kansas City Strip) steaks are bold in flavor with a thicker grain than other cuts of meat. Pair this tasty choice with spicy, savory reds that offer more prominent notes of spice, such as an Argentinian Malbec or an Australian Shiraz.
Although brisket is not technically a steak and may be more at home on a BBQ restaurant menu, it is still a mouthwatering beef dish. We just couldn’t leave it out! Brisket is incredibly flavorful, so it needs a wine partner that can stand up to its savory profile. Petit Syrahs and mature Tempranillos are both dark and rich with a nice balance of tannins, making each of them a tasty pairing choice.
Wine Pairings with other Red Meats
If a classic, hearty steak isn’t your preferred choice when choosing a protein-heavy dish, have no fear. Wine pairs well with red meat options beyond traditional steaks. Here are a few other selections to tempt your palate and build your pairing skills.
With its lighter, earthier flavor and tender texture, lamb pairs well with medium-bodied reds like an equally earthy Pinot Noir or a more delicate young Bordeaux blend.
Veal tends to take on the flavors of whatever sauce it is prepared with, so it can pair with a variety of wines – from bolder, tannin-heavy reds to lighter, more delicate blends. A delightful benefit of veal’s versatility is that it works well when paired with a nice rosé.
Venison is wild game meat with big, earthy, gamey flavors. As such, it pairs very well with earthy, savory wines such as a medium- to full-bodied Pinot Noir or a rich Syrah.
Although beer may seem like the natural choice when opting for a plate of juicy barbeque, your palate will thank you for pairing that pulled pork with the right wine. When picking the right glass, it’s all about complementing the sauce. If you’ve chosen a vinegar-based North Carolina-style sauce, pair it with a Petit Syrah. For Memphis-style pulled pork, reach for a Pinot Noir. For a South Carolina mustard-based sauce, try a Sangiovese. Or, if you’re using a traditional, smoky-sweet Kansas City-style sauce, reach for a Cabernet Franc.
Umami and Wine
We can’t talk about wine and steak pairings without explaining the effect of umami. Umami is a Japanese term that means “delicious,” and it’s the fifth taste that can be detected along with saltiness, sweetness, sourness, and bitterness. Umami was first isolated in 1907 by a Japanese scientist named Kikunae Ikeda and is generally described as what makes dishes taste “savory.” Foods high in umami include truffle oil, soy sauce, chicken and beef broth, parmesan cheese, olives, mushrooms, and red meat.
Many food and wine experts agree that foods high in umami (like the steak we’ve been focusing on) can increase the bitterness in wines with a high tannin content, which, for most, is an unpleasant taste that’s too pronounced. This is good to consider when choosing a wine to accompany your steak. Opt for a mature red with softened tannins and high umami to decrease any unwanted bitterness.