Pairing principles: How to find the right red for your steak dinner
“Red with meat and white with fish.”
That’s a good place to start when pairing wine with beef. But for a food-wine combo that will make dinner shine, you have to dig a little deeper than “red with meat.”
Will your favorite Merlot go well with those juicy steaks your beau just threw on the grill? Grandma didn’t serve wine with her famous pot roast, but you will. What kind will do?
We’ve got you covered. Whether it’s a classic roast or tri-tip marinated in your friend’s secret sauce, we’ll show you how to pair it with a right-on red. One meal-planning problem solved.
Follow these rules for choosing the right wine every time:
The leaner the cut, the lighter the wine.
Choose a lighter, more acidic red wine for leaner cuts of beef.
Sirloin steaks, top- and bottom-round roasts, and eyes of round roast and steak pair well with light- or medium-bodied red wines. Grandma’s pot roast calls for a low-tannin wine that matches the dish’s flavor. Prime pairings include Zinfandel, Pinot Noir, and Syrah.
Other examples of lean beef-wine pairings include:
- Beef stew with Pinot Noir
- Santa Maria-style tri-tip with Syrah or Shiraz
- Top sirloin steak with Sangiovese or Zinfandel
The richer the meat, the bolder the wine.
Well-marbled meats work best with big bold reds that are high in tannins. Tannins work as a “palate cleanser” and are best paired with a richer cut of beef. A few suggested wine pairings are:
- Filet mignon with Cabernet Sauvignon or Tempranillo
- Skirt steak with Merlot, Zinfandel or Sangiovese
- Prime Rib with Petite Sirah or Cabernet Sauvignon
Consider the sauce.
Depending on how the beef dish is seasoned, you may find that a sweeter red, or even a white wine, pairs with it best. For sweet, tangy sauces such as sweet BBQ or Hoisin, choose fruitier reds such as California Syrah or Zinfandel.
For mint sauces, rosemary marinades, and other green sauces, choose a bolder fruity wine such as a Malbec. When a dish is heavy on the garlic, consider a more acidic red or a rosé, which will cut through the garlicky taste.
Brown sauces, like mom’s roast beef gravy, pair well with Bordeaux and Languedoc-Roussillon reds.
Did you nix the fancy steak dinner in favor of spaghetti and meatballs or chili? There’s a wine for those.
Tomato-based sauces go well with medium-bodied reds with some acidity. Options include Sangiovese, Merlot, Carménère, Cabernet Franc, Tempranillo, and Bardolino.
For a complete guide to food and wine pairings, check out California Beef Council’s Beef and Wine Pairings.
Whatever you decide, you now have the know-how to choose the perfect wine for a meal starring beef. Cheers!