Any beginner’s guide to combine wine with steak will keep in mind that a tannic red white wine with great acidity, like Cabernet Sauvignon or Syrah, can be perfect for mitigating the salted and fatty flavors of steak. But where to go from there? The world of red white wine, and steak for that matter, is full of options. With red wines varying from productive, appetizing, or spicy, and a myriad of steak cuts, rubs and aging, choosing the ideal red wine to couple with a steak dinner becomes a bit more complex than simply plucking a bottle from your local shop. To get professional picks, we employed the aid of Cedric Nicaise, sommelier and wine director of Eleven Madison Park in New York.
What to think about
When it pertains to picking the right red wine for your steak, think about the cut, seasoning, and cooking strategy. “Steaks that are excellent for grilling (rib-eye, wall mount, strip) frequently have more char and smoke and therefore provide themselves to heartier red wines, such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, however also Syrah, Châteauneuf-du-Pape,” Nicaise says. A nice cut of steak is typically characterized by the amount of fat it has, as this contributes to the meat’s abundant taste, but cuts with less fat can be simply as satisfying when paired with the ideal wine. For cuts like tenderloin or filet that are typically cooked more delicately– either burnt or oven-roasted– Nicaise says that lighter varietals like Nebbiolo, Sangiovese, or Beaujolais are best. “Pinot Noir, in specific, can be the ideal match,” he states.
Varietals vs. Region
When in doubt (and if dinnertime is quickly approaching) opt for a full-bodied red white wine. However if you’re searching for that supreme pairing of extravagance, there are some grapes that do the job better; Nicaise suggests looking towards Syrah as an alternative to Cabernet Sauvignon. “It’s a bit lighter and has excellent savory notes, plus a little smokiness, which constantly goes a long way for me with steaks,” he states. Nevertheless, if you simply can’t seem to stomach steak without a Taxi, there are a number of alternatives from timeless wine areas like Bordeaux, Napa Valley, and Sonoma. “Chateau Biac, a family-owned estate in Bordeaux, produces a perfect white wine for steak that is dominant in either Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon depending upon the vintage,” says Nicaise. “Knights Bridge, which is located in Sonoma, is another option that offers hearty and rich, traditional California Cabernet Sauvignon red wines without being exaggerated.”
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Cabernet Sauvignon: A traditional choice. Its full-bodied flavor with notes of green bell pepper and dark fruit is often tempered by barrel aging, which can impart fragrances of nutmeg, toast, and vanilla. Clos Pegase Cabernet Sauvignon 2017 is a huge but well balanced Cabernet from Napa Valley that won’t overwhelm the palate, while Penley Estate “Phoenix” Cabernet Sauvignon 2019 is a medium-bodied choice with mouthwatering black cherry fruit flavors.
Bordeaux: Winemakers in Bordeaux blend Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon for a well balanced white wine that has somewhat softer tannins than Cabernet Sauvignon alone. Bordeaux wines tend to have dark fruit notes of blackberry, plum, and black cherry and are frequently layered with earthy tastes coming from Merlot. Château Biac’s, Côtes De Bordeaux Cadillac is smooth in texture however vibrant adequate to manage charred cooking techniques.
Zinfandel: Best paired with rib-eye, T-bone, and porterhouse cuts, Zinfandel can be medium to high in both acidity and tannins and is understood for having a spicy yet robust grapey taste. Saldo’s Califonia Zinfandel is a nice alternative that has fragrances of licorice, black pepper, blackberry, and baking spices, with a hint of smokiness on the finish.
Malbec: A dry, full-bodied wine that has jammy dark fruits, oak, tobacco, and typically vanilla or chocolate on the nose, Malbec is another top pairing for steak. While it can withstand heftier cuts, it pairs best with leaner cuts, such as top sirloin or flank steak. Coen Reserve 2019 has notes of coffee and tobacco that match the oft-used charred or grilled preparation. Another great alternative is Susana Balbo “Signature” Malbec, whose tart blackberry tastes are balanced out by rich earthy notes.
Pinot Noir: For cuts that contain little to no fat, like filet mignon, Pinot Noir can be the perfect pairing. Its fruitier nature, high level of acidity, and silky tannins supply a good taste buds for the fragile flavor of filets and accompanying sauces. J. Vineyards Russian River Valley Canfield Vineyard 2017 Pinot Noir has notes of ripe cherries and balsamic.
Gamay: Although it is lighter in body, Gamay is abundant in acidic red fruit flavors like cherry and raspberry, which balance well-marbled cuts like New York strip. Gamays hailing from Beaujolais, such as Domaine Jean-Claude Lapalu Beaujolais Villages Vieilles Vignes 2020, can also be flower with notes of dark violets balanced out by tips of white pepper and terrific spice tones.