Ordering steak in a restaurant can be complicated.
Names like Chateaubriand, Côte de Boeuf, Tomahawk or Tournedos all sound cool, but which cut and preparation are you gonna take? And, of course, which kind of wine should you order to drink with it?
For me, nothing is more rewarding than the perfect steak and red wine pairing.
Don’t you worry, though! Allow me to explain a few simple rules to follow as well as my favourite pairings to elevate your next steak dinner – whether it’s on the town or served at home.
Rule #1: Start with the meat.
The more tender your meat, the lighter your wine should be.
For example, a tenderloin cut (lean with no fat) doesn’t need a very heavy and high tannic wine, which will totally over power your steak. On the other hand, a rib steak (e.g., rib-eye, Côte de Boeuf, T-bone, New York or “cowboy” cuts) will have more fat, so it will have a stronger flavour – and you need a more powerful wine. Simple, right?
One notable exception: Wagyu beef, from any of four Japanese breeds, is known for its marbling, or fat through the beef. This results in a very lean cut with extra flavour from the marbling – and requires a different type of red wine. More on that below!
Rule #2: Consider the sauce.
Whenever you have a heavy or creamy sauce, make sure you take a slightly more tannic or aromatic wine. You don’t want your sauce to overpower your wine (or you steak). For me, the leanest and most expensive cuts don’t need much sauce and are best with a lighter-yet-rewarding wine.
So, here we go: three cuts of meat with my favourite wines to pair them with, following the above rules to keep it simple. Bon appetit!
Pair with Tenderloin Steak: Judge Rock – Pinot Noir
From: Central Otago, New Zealand
Price: $29.90 (available at Vinomofo)
I love Pinot Noir wine from New Zealand. The colder climate, especially in Otago, is perfect for this delicate grape. A juicy Pinot like this one goes extremely well with very lean steaks. It is not too overpowering for the tenderness of the meat and the juicy red fruit flavours go so well with it.
Pair with Rib Steak: Arlewood – Cabernet Merlot
From: Margaret River, Australia
Price:$41 (available at RedMart)
Started by an Italian family years ago, Arlewood makes amazing small batch Margaret River wines. I love its story and wine-making: honest, clean and family-driven. This wine goes extremely well with more fatty cuts of meat: You have spicy notes and high tannins to counter that umami and strong flavours of the beef. Yummy!
Pair with Wagyu Steak: Ministry of Clouds – Tempranillo Grenache
From: McLaren Valley, Australia
Price:$62.30 (available at The Straits Wines Company)
This special piece of meat requires a special wine. Wagyu beef itself is tender, yet extremely high on flavour due to the marbling. So, you want something that is equally delicate but still packs a punch. Ministry of Clouds is one of my favourite McLaren Valley wines. (They are served at Burnt Ends, which knows a thing or two about cooking meat.) This blend has the delicate fruits from the Grenache grapes with some heft from the Tempranillo.
About Daan Suijlen
Dutch expat Daan is a passionate home chef and certified sommelier. At the age of 5, he preferred to be in the kitchen watching his grandma cook – and that passion has never left him! Having studied wine following WSET, he now loves to combine the best of both worlds: amazing food with great wines. Follow him at Instagram under @wineandcooking.
By Daan Suijlen, 10 January 2019
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