Five classics for red wine with steak
- Cabernet Sauvignon
- Grenache / Shiraz blends
- Syrah / Shiraz
An evening with a succulent, juicy steak and a delicious bottle of wine is one of life’s great pleasures, at least for meat lovers.
It’s always fun to experiment when it comes to wine and food pairing but here are some go-to styles and things to consider if you’re preparing a special steak dinner.
Red wine with steak
Malbec red wines have become a classic match with steak, largely thanks to the Argentina-led reincarnation of this grape variety on the global wine stage plus also the country’s reputation for high quality beef.
Malbec’s lush dark fruit and natural tannin are considered to match-up well with a good steak in general, but some experts suggest searching for fresher styles.
‘I tend to choose a ‘new wave’ Malbec, one with less oak, fresher fruit and better acidity,’ said South American wine expert and journalist Patricio Tapia in 2018, when regional chair for Argentina at the Decanter World Wine Awards.
‘Especially ones coming from places like Altamira and Gualtallary in the Uco Valley, towards the Andes Mountains.’ He added, ‘Always keep in mind that the main task for a glass of wine is to refresh the food.’
Cabernet Sauvignon wines, with their blend of dark fruits, tannin and naturally high acidity, are another classic choice if you’re looking to pour a full-bodied red.
‘A powerful California Cabernet Sauvignon with a grilled steak is pretty hard to beat,’ said wine expert Karen MacNeil in her 10 rules to food and wine pairing.
More options for red wine with steak
‘I’d urge people to look beyond the traditional matches of Malbec or Cabernet Sauvignon with steak,’ Peter Richards MW told Decanter in 2018.
‘How about a nice lively Cabernet Franc? Or may even a Carignan, Cinsault or cool-climate Syrah? Even a full-bodied but elegant rosé can work well on a warm day,’ said Richards, who is DWWA regional chair for Chile and chairman of Decanter Retailer Awards.
He said he enjoyed red wines that have body and texture but that could also refresh the palate during a steak dinner. ‘The risk with steak is to think ‘big meaty flavours = big wine.’
Does Pinot Noir go with steak?
Most Pinot Noir wines tend to sit at the light to medium-bodied end of the spectrum, and its profile is often therefore paired-up with lighter meats.
Yet Pinot Noir’s natural acidity and bright, red berry fruit can work with your steak dinner, depending on the style and the cut.
In general, think about trying this with leaner cuts, such as fillet, cooked rare to medium-rare.
‘I don’t normally think of Pinot Noir as a match for steak, but the best pairing by far, when the meat was cooked rare, was a classically silky, seductive Daniel Rion, Vosne-Romanée 2001,’ wrote food and wine expert Fiona Becket after tasting several fine wines with steak for Decanter magazine back in 2007.
How to cut it: Do you want a wine with ribeye steak or fillet?
‘The easiest way to pair wine with beef is to think about matching the flavour intensity of your wine with your beef,’ said Mark Quick, wine director for Hawksmoor steakhouse restaurants, in this in-depth article on pairing wine with beef.
Consider the fat content in your meat, for example. ‘More fat equals more intense beefy flavour,’ said Quick, speaking to Decanter in December 2020.
In her 2007 article on pairing different cuts, Beckett said a ribeye steak with relatively high fat content worked well with a Côte-Rôtie from the Syrah stronghold of the northern Rhône, and also a Super Tuscan – ‘both generous, ripe and full-bodied’.
She also recommended riper, more fruit-driven styles of red for steak cooked well-done.
‘Sauces and sides will also be just as important when it comes to the choice of wine,’ said Richards. ‘Creamy sauces like béarnaise can go well with an oakier wine. Syrah can work well with peppercorns.’
White wine with steak
Why not ignore the raised eyebrows and forget the long-established mantra that a steak dinner is no place for white wine?
Discovery is, after all, one of the most exciting things about the wine world. In an article from our archive, Matthieu Longuère MS, of Le Cordon Bleu London, talks about possibilities for pairing white wine with steak and other red meat.
Options range from a mature white Rioja to thinking about how to subtly adapt the meal to suit other styles, such as Pinot Grigio, he wrote.
This article was first published in 2018 by Ellie Douglas and has been updated by Chris Mercer in May 2021.