With scores of different kinds of reds, whites, and bubbles flooding the wine market, selecting one to sip and savor with your steak can be mind-boggling. This Tastessence article tells you the wines that pair well with different kinds of steak.
Food and wine are like soulmates. If you pair them right, they’ll bring out the best in each other.
We’re all well-versed with the simple rule: red wine with red meat! This is true to some extent because you need a wine with good tannin and acid content to balance the rich textures of a steak. Red wines fit the bill because the tannins present in them impart a slightly bitter and astringent characteristic to the wine that gels well with the fats and protein in the steak. Light-bodied wines or white wines are generally not paired with steak, simply because they are weak and get overshadowed by the dish itself. However, pairing wine with steak involves much more.
While there are a plethora of wines to choose from, certain factors with regard to steak have to be taken into consideration such as its fat content, level of doneness, type of cut, acidity level, type of seasonings added, and type of sauce cooked in. Based on these factors, the choice of red wine will differ. Having said this, it’s important to remember, there’s no winning red wine-steak formula. Wine and food pairings primarily revolve around personal preference, so the pairings are subjective. Nevertheless, let’s take a look at some favored pairings.
Wines that Go Well with Steak
A medium- to full-bodied wine with an abundance of alcohol and tannins, Cabernet Sauvignon pairs beautifully with heavily marbled steak, if not perfectly! Because of its high alcohol and tannin content, these deep red wines can withstand the bold flavors of red meat and match the natural juices of a rare steak with ease. This is exactly why this wine isn’t paired with white meats like chicken, turkey, fish, etc., because its heavy texture simply overshadows their delicate flavors. A well-seasoned steak is not only high in protein and spices, but is also high in fat, which combines well with black currant, oak, pepper, mint, and waves of cocoa and vanilla of a Cabernet.
Pairings: Ribeyes, filet mignon, T-bone, sirloin, New York strip, and porterhouse steaks
Originally hailing from the Bordeaux region of France, Merlots are well-known for their soft tannins, and although they aren’t as tannic or acidic as Cabernets, they do have enough tannins to complement steaks well. A medium- to full-bodied Merlot cuts the fat present in robust meats well, and its mild fruit flavors of plum, blueberries, blackberries, cherries, and notes of cocoa and black pepper allow the rich and juicy flavors of the steak to shine.
Pairings: Filet mignon, T-bone, New York strip, Porterhouse, and sirloin steak
The spicy notes of red Zinfandel can not only stand up to the strong flavors of steak, but can also complement the strong seasonings added to the meat. However, since it has a lower tannin content as compared to Cabernets and Merlots, it’s best to avoid heavily marbled cuts. Its high alcoholic content and medium to high acidic content give it a bolder texture, and does well with steak prepared in spiced barbecue sauces. Infused with concentrated cherry and rich berry flavors, with notes of spices and oak, the fruitiness of this wine simply leaps out, when paired with well-seasoned steak.
Pairings: New York strip steak, sirloin, prime rib, tartare, and ribeye
This light- to medium-bodied red wine is low in tannin content as compared to Cabernets and Merlots; however, its vibrant acidity helps balance the bold flavors of steak. Pinot Noir is loved for its versatility, subtleness, and food-friendly properties, and is lighter in color as compared to other full-bodied red wines. Its fresh fruity notes with undertones of spices and earthiness allows it to blend well with the flavors of filet mignon, especially because this cut contains less fat.
Pairings: Medium-rare filet mignon, prime rib, and tartare
French Syrah or Australian Shiraz, these medium to full-bodied wines are food-friendly, versatile wines that pair well with a number of foods. Their fruity blueberry, savory olive, and spicy peppery overtones help complement the bold and juicy flavors of red meat. In fact, the crisp acidity and tannin content cut through the fat of marbled meat very well. This wine also complements steak prepared in peppery barbecue, or even a basic rare, juicy, smoked one extremely well.
Pairings: New York strip steak, peppered ribeye steak, prime rib, flank, or skirt steak.
Red Riojas from Rioja, Spain, are well-known for their fine quality and versatility to pair well with all kinds of red meat. These classic and bold wines have flavors of dark berries, vanilla, herbs, leather, and overtones of spice, tobacco, etc. Rioja and steak are classic combinations wherein the wine’s fruitiness complements the natural flavors of steak, allowing the steak to shine through. Rioja pairs well with well-seasoned and spiced steaks and also complements steaks prepared with heavy sauce bases.
Pairings: Ribeye, skirt steak, filet mignon, T-bone, and porterhouse
Although the general rule is ‘red wine with red meat’, there are exceptions to it. If you know what you’re doing, you don’t have to always abide by the conventional wine-pairing rules. As long as the steak hasn’t been basted with barbecue sauce, you can pair it with a German Riesling. Serve it with lovely spring vegetables, and you’re sure to enjoy the combination. The intensity and complexity of this white wine is able to handle the texture and flavors of red meat very well.
Pairings: Filet mignon and porterhouse steak
Gewürztraminer wines are full-bodied, white wines that are known for their ‘spicy’ characteristics. With a bouquet of fruit, spices, honey, and rose flavors, this wine variety marries beautifully with marbled red meat. Although a white, its bold flavors stand up to the strong flavors of red meat and complements the fat in it well. Since it is a spicy wine, it is usually paired with spicy Asian cuisine; however, it also pairs well with a well-seasoned and spiced steak.
Pairings: Tartare steak
If you’re serving steak with a red wine sauce, then it’s ideal to serve the wine you cooked with. However, don’t get too worked up about which wine to pair with your food. Just drink what you like. Above all, remember that you needn’t be a wine aficionado to enjoy wine with your steak!