Wine and steak are often lauded as the perfect pairing. There’s a reason for that. The tannins in wine bind to the fat and the protein in steak, neutralizing the bitterness of the wine and elevating the natural fruit flavors. The wine helps to bring out the meaty flavors of the steak and enhances the taste of the juices. In short, what makes wine and steak the perfect pairing is that they work together to bring out the best in each other. But which steaks go best with which wines?
Red wine is the go-to classic thanks to its level of tannins, but that doesn’t mean that white wine can’t make an interesting pairing- since white wine is served chilled, it will bring out a temperature contrast along with the acidity of the wine, which much like the tannins in red wine, will also bring out the flavors of the meat.
It’s important to remember that how you like your steak is important to consider as well. Those who prefer a rare steak can have a wine with more tannins, whereas the more well-done you like your steak the sweeter the wine should be.
Which Steaks Go Best with Which Wines?
Different things can affect which wine will pair with which steak. Things such as personal preference for example, if you down and out hate Cabernet Sauvignon then it probably won’t be a great fit for you- although as mentioned above, the proteins and the fat in wine will change the way the wine tastes, so maybe give it one more try. Just buy a glass of wine instead of a bottle.
The cut of the meat is also an important factor in pairing your wine and steak because a cut of meat with more fat on it will allow for a wine with more tannins in it- in fact, the fattiness of the meat is a very big factor in your pairing selection.
You should also consider how the meat will be seasoned and if you will be having any sauces on the meat, and the flavor of both the meat and the wine- it’s very important to choose a pairing that won’t leave either the steak or the wine overpowered.
Cabernet Sauvignon & Steak
Cabernet has previously been called the colonizer of wines, as it is so popular and so easy to grow that it is now grown almost everywhere in the winemaking world. Naturally, part of the flavours of the wine will depend on the terroir (the environment that the grapes were grown in). However, there are some typical characteristics of Cabernet that we can rely on.
Some of the typical characteristics of Cabernet include high tannin levels, which as we discussed will bind with the fat on the steak and mellow out the wine while elevating the flavours of the cut of meat. It also has a relatively acidic profile that can cut through the umami and fat flavours of steak, providing a nice tang.
It is also often aged in oak barrels, which means that it picks up smokey, woodlike flavours like tobacco and dark berries. This makes it a great choice to pair with grilled meats.
Steaks to pair with Cabernet Sauvignon
Ribeye. Ribeye is a relatively fatty piece of meat, with plenty of marbling best cooked quickly on a very hot grill, making it a perfect match for Cabernet Sauvignon- and an even better match for an aged Cabernet.
T-bone. A large cut of steak, the T-bone is packed with marbling, juices, and flavour. It is perfect for hot, dry cooking such as grilling, making it a great choice for Cabernet Sauvignon.
Rib Steak. This includes short rib and other rib cuts such as tomahawk. These are considered to be very flavorful and have a beautiful marbled effect.
Malbec and Steak
Malbec is a beautiful full-bodied dry red wine with medium levels of acidity. It boasts a nose of dark fruit, and if grown in a warm climate, it can be deliciously jammy. Depending on how it has been aged it can also have notes of vanilla, tobacco, and oak.
The complexity of this wine and its comparatively low levels of tannins makes it a very good pairing with leaner cuts of meat- fattier cuts are likely to be overwhelmed by the fruit in the wine.
Steaks to Pair with Malbec
Prime rib. Prime rib goes perfectly with Malbec because the flavors in Malbec are bold enough to stand up to the flavors of the prime rib while the juiciness of the cut of meat will bring out some of the more delicate malbec flavors.
Top Sirloin. A naturally bold flavor on top of a relatively lean cut of meat makes malbec and top sirloin an excellent pairing- the flavors of each can keep up with each other but the lean meat and low tannin level also work very well together.
Filet Mignon. The texture of Malbec perfectly compliments the tender filet mignon, as well as the fruity flavors being accelerated by the juicy flavors of the meat.
Steak & Shiraz
Shiraz wine can refer to two different things, historically, it meant wine made in and around the city of Shiraz in Ancient Persia/modern-day Iran. In modern time it refers instead to wine made from the Syrah grape, most commonly grown in Australia and California. The current Shiraz grape is identical to the Syrah grape but originated in Southeast France.
Shiraz/Syrah wine can be heavily affected by its terroir (or growing environment), but it still maintains classic characteristics through this. You can identify the differences as typically the grape grown in a cooler climate will be labelled as Syrah. Syrah has high tannins with herby, smokey notes, with hints of dark berries.
Shiraz on the other hand presents jammy, full-bodied flavours. It is much fruitier, but still maintains smokey, almost beefy notes. The tannins are lower in grapes that are grown in a warmer climate. Both of these wines go well with steaks that have a little more fat to them.
Steak to Pair with Shiraz/Syrah
Porterhouse Steak. The porterhouse steak pairs well with Syrah because they both pack a flavour punch, and the fattiness of the steak cuts through the tannins of the Syrah.
Flap Steak. This is a super flavourful cut of meat, but it can easily become chewy. Pair it with a Shiraz for a great combination of flavours on your plate.
Rib-Eye. Thanks to its intense flavour, but tender cut, rib-eye is one of the most popular steak cuts out there, and is a great pairing for a fruity Shiraz or a peppery Syrah.
When Pairing Wine and Steak
While a wine with heavy tannins will go very well with a wine with a lot of fat in it, and a leaner steak will go well with a wine that has fewer tannins, the number one rule to pairing is that you like what you are consuming. It’s easy to say that one thing goes perfectly with another but if you don’t like it, then it is a bad pairing.
Pairing steak and wine is similar to pairing other food and wine. Try to match the textures of the food and the steak, and remember that the wine has to have more flavour to it or else you risk completely overpowering the wine. When making a pairing try to ensure that the wine has a bolder flavour so that the two can complement each other.
If you are having the steak with a sauce make sure to pair the wine with the sauce- not the steak. You can find out everything that you need to know about making the perfect food and wine pairings using our food and wine pairing guide, which will take you through the basics and give you plenty of examples to try out along the way.