Pairing Wine with Red Meat
For the true gourmand, the combination of red meat and wine exemplifies perfection at the dinner table. Indeed, in many parts of the world there is nothing more classic. The thought of pairing the opulence of a Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon from a top-notch producer such Caymus with a medium-rare, dry-aged Wagyu New York strip makes the mouth water, and the perfection of this pairing speaks to the compelling nature of the art of food and wine pairing. While there are no absolute rules (remember: drink what you like with what you like to eat!), here are a few tips to help guide you when embarking upon the journey of red meat and wine at your dinner table:
When looking for a wine to pair with dark meats such as beef, lamb, and game, red wine is a natural choice. The tannins in red wine cut through the fat and muscle in the meat, releasing additional flavors and elevating the overall experience. Browning meat over high heat adds a savory, rich character, requiring a wine with similar weight and bold flavors. For this reason, more full-bodied wines- such as Bordeaux, Cabernet, Shiraz or Syrah are classic pairing choices. However, as you make your selection remember that the seasonings, sauces, and cooking method of your meal are critical! For example, a char-grilled steak offers different flavors than a stew simmered in rosemary and broth, and for that reason the ideal pairing choice might be very different.
Grilled Meat – Cooking meat over a fire adds a seductive smoky character, and also caramelizes the proteins. These strong flavors are nicely balanced with robust wines. The dynamic, expressive, smoky fruit found in Rhone wines like Perrin Cotes du Rhone is a great match. A delicious Cabernet such as Geyser Peak Cabernet Sauvignon offers the perfect level of tannin to offset a steak’s fat and allow the meat to shine.
Burgers - Hamburgers top the list as America’s most popular grilled food. Although the condiments may vary, the idea of burgers brings to mind easy enjoyment and calls for a wine with the same personality. Spice it up with a chili-cheese burger and you’ll love a bright Zinfandel like Cline Ancient Vines. Top your meal with blue cheese and open a bottle of Benziger Cabernet Sauvignon from Sonoma; the bold characters of the cheese combine beautifully with the equally bold wine. A richly-flavored lamb burger with caramelized onions will be great with Syncline Subduction Red, a Rhone blend from Washington State.
Stir-Fry – When cooking Asian-inspired red meat dishes, it is important to understand that the foundation of this regional cooking style is in the contrast of flavors and textures. When selecting a wine to pair with your Asian cuisine, choose wines that emphasize balance and elegance, as opposed to power and weight. Bigger, tannic, more robust wines can easily overpower your dish. Look for wines with more moderate alcohol, tannin and expressive acidity. When matching Asian chili dishes, select a balanced Zinfandel such as Seghesio. Rhone wines like Delas St. Esprit Cotes du Rhone are naturally low in tannin and can take on the flavors of the sticky, flavorful sauces on Asian Beef Ribs. D’Arenberg Stump Jump Shiraz and other Australian Shirazes offer luxurious, almost sweet fruit and adapt beautifully to the beef based dishes of this region.
Braised Meat - Braising is a slow, moist cooking method that blends flavors and softens tough textures. During this process the meat develops layered flavors and a thick, rich sauce. The final dish is a mellow marriage of the ingredients used in the braising, and they are your guide to the wine pairing. A rich, succulent wine braised lamb shank would shine when served with Penfolds Koonunga Hill Shiraz. Sterling Three Palms Vineyard Merlot is an excellent match with a savory braised pot roast. Enjoy Tres Picos Grenache or another rich Spanish red with braised short ribs and vegetables.
BBQ - Anything coated in barbecue sauce - with its smoky, succulent, spicy, and typically sweet flavors - can pose a challenge for wine pairings. An All-American Zinfandel such as Coppola Diamond Zinfandel will stand up well to both the fruit and spice of the dish. Californian Syrah and Australian Shiraz have both the body and acidity to take on this meal.
The American appetite for red meat seems neverending, and the desire to find its perfect accompaniment in the form of wine is equally constant. While the task may seem daunting, remember that as long as your wine selection brings greater enjoyment to your table, the pairing is doing its job. The journey can be half the fun, and nothing is more exciting than branching out, being adventurous, and finding your new favorite wine through the quest for the perfect wine and food pairing.
Recipes & Wine Pairings