Have you ever heard someone talk about serving wine that was chosen according to the meal they were cooking and wished you had that skill?
Well, now you can! You don’t have to be a sommelier to learn a few tricks about matchmaking your food and drinks for the tastiest possible combinations.
For instance, when you find the right wine to pair up perfectly with the meaty saltiness of a big fat steak, its gorgeous sweetness and surprising tang will unlock whole new levels of flavor.
Next time you’re cooking one up, be sure to heed the following advice.
Best Color Wine To Have With Steak
As you’ve probably already guessed – judging by how many pop culture references there are to this combination, and how many restaurants use it in their steak sauces – the best combination you’re going to get for steak is a glass, or maybe a bottle, of red wine.
This is pretty common sense stuff: it’s widely known that red meats like beef are served with red wine, whilst chicken and other white meats will usually pair up best with a white instead.
There are outliers, for example pork, which don’t really speak to either side and could potentially work with anything.
Before we talk about which kinds of red will work best alongside this dinner of champions, you first need to know about two key characteristics of your steak.
Both the percentage of fat content and what seasonings you are planning to cook it up alongside will determine what kind of wine will match beautifully with it.
If you’ve got yourself an especially fat steak, you don’t want your wine to be too rich or cloying: instead, you should aim for one with a high level of acidity, which will serve as a perfect contrast to the meat’s salty umami taste.
As for seasoning, a simple sprinkling of salt and pepper is versatile enough to pair well with just about any wine. Going for a sweeter sauce? Avoid sweet wine, then, as you don’t want to overwhelm your palate with the same sorts of flavors.
Likewise, when you’re working with steak that is spiced or seasoned heavily, you want to stick to a lighter-bodied wine with fruitier notes. Again, you’re trying to mix up as many flavor experiences as possible, rather than match everything up.
Best Type Of Wine To Have With Steak
Okay, so you know you’re going with a red, but that doesn’t really narrow it down much – there are hundreds of different red wines from around the world, so allow us to present some of the best options for enjoying with your steak.
Recognized as one of the more daring reds out there, seductive and dark in color to match this reputation, this is a powerful wine that is packed full of tannins, but not so rich that it won’t be suited to the flavor profile of your steak.
Malbec is best suited alongside a leaner steak, with less fat on the bone, because of its fruitier, juicier nature – we’re talking flank or sirloin, here.
Typically made with citrus notes from oranges, lemons, or limes, there isn’t really any woodiness to a Malbec, which makes it more of a general crowd pleaser. That said, you could go for a s fattier cut if you wanted, though be aware things might get overwhelming if you opt for a filet mignon.
Those who steer clear of tannins because of their tendency to be a little acidic will appreciate the sweetness of a Zinfandel.
The grapes used to make this delicious wine have a greater percentage of sugar; it can either end up more potent, with around 15% alcohol content, or if some of the sugar is preserved then you’ll end up with a sweeter flavor profile overall.
You can get as fatty a steak as you want to go with a fresh and fruity Zinfandel, but you want to steer clear of the sweeter seasonings, sauces, and glazes. Opt for something that will cut through the syrupy flavor of the wine, like a spicy rub or something zesty like citrus.
Also known as a Syrah in some regions, Shiraz red wine works wonderfully with ribeyes and other fattier cuts of steak, serving as a wonderful balance to the fat-marbled meat, which is on the rich side.
The flavors of Shiraz and Syrah depend on where the grapes used were grown; their tastes are especially altered by the climate and temperature around them.
For instance, where things are a little chillier, you’ll find a more acidic Shiraz with added tannins and savory notes of pepper. Where it’s warmer and the grapes get a little more sun, you end up with a Shiraz that’s a lot fuller, with a softened, fruitier flavor and fewer tannins.
Looking to treat yourself to an especially fancy red? Shiraz/Syrah is the way to go, as it ages beautifully to pick up a woody earthy aroma that matches well with the existing notes of fruit and spice.
As one of the world’s most popular wines, it’s rare you’ll have a guest at your table that doesn’t get along with Cabernet, including yourself!
There are so many different variants available, but all of them have one thing in common: the flavor profile is balanced in such a way that even those new to red wine (which does, admittedly, have an acquired taste) will find it slips down a little too easily.
Tangy and delicious, you’ll notice that Cabernet grapes are grown successfully across the world, so it doesn’t matter which bottle you pick up – it’s pretty much a safe bet you’ll enjoy each of them the same.
With steak in particular though, as you’ll see by our recommendation in a moment, it’s best to go for a Cabernet Sauvignon – this French wine is widely considered to be steak’s perfect partner.
With little acid and few tannins, Merlot is a surprisingly complementary partner to a steak that successfully slices through a fatty steak, without being too robust that it overwhelms your palate and leads to a sickly-sweet taste experience.
It’s both mild and dry, as well as being fruity, so you get a slight sweetness that boosts the juiciness of a steak, even if it’s a little on the lean side.
Can’t afford the thickest, juiciest cuts? Serve it with a Merlot and your guests will hardly be able to tell the difference! There’s no residual sugar leftover in the bottle, which means the natural sugars and umami flavors of your steak quickly become the star of the show.
You could even use a sweeter seasoning if you wanted, to heighten this experience tenfold.
Best Steak Wine – Top Recommendations On A Budget
All of our choices here are from 2016-2018, not only because it was such a good period for red wines, but as it means the wine has matured enough to notice a difference in taste, without breaking the bank to afford a good quality bottle.
Our choice is a soft, velvety red with black cherry and raspberry, and background notes of violet – overwhelmingly good for the price
Our choice is juicy, with notes of vanilla and blackberry, its less subtle sweetness being widely appealing to a variety of different palates
Our choice is dark – almost black – with intensity brought by plums, berries, and other black fruits; you might love the gentle savory notes of black pepper
Our choice is subtle and fresh, with a contained ripeness that provides a necessary sweetness without failing to pack any sort of punch
Our choice is full of fragrance from raspberry, florals, and fresh herbs, followed by cocoa, wood spice, orange peel and spice – a versatile taste sensation
So, to run it back really quickly, you want a red wine for your steak, ideally a Malbec, Shiraz, Merlot, Cabernet, or Zinfandel, as these all have appropriate notes that will pair fantastically with its savory flavor.
At the end of the day, although we’ve named several reds that would definitely bode well when served up with one cut or another – some more appropriate for a wider, fussier audience and a few for any especially refined palates at the table – you can pretty much get away with serving any red vino you want.
To be honest, there’s not even an obligation to stick to red – nobody can tell you not to have white or rose if you would prefer; it’s your dinner party, after all.
Hell, nobody says wine has to be the only alcohol on the menu either! Have a beer, have a cocktail, serve your finest bourbon: there’s no liquor police ready and waiting to issue you with a ticket for failing to meet etiquette standards. Just don’t tell the sommeliers!