When you’re thinking of what to drink with steak, the first answer that springs to mind is normally wine. And not just any wine, you usually picture a glass of fine full-bodied red wine.
The combination of a tender beef steak and a bottle of ruby red is almost inseparable in fine dining. Beyond the number one rule of wine pairing: reds with reds, there’s a good reason why steak and wine go hand in hand.
As it turns out, there’s a scientific reason behind this common culinary “law”. It all comes down to compounds found in red meat and the chemicals that form in wine during fermentation.
In particular, the high tannins in red wines, which mainly come from the grape skin and seeds, as well as the wood used to make wine barrels, and the protein in beef interact with each other to create the ideal combination.
The tannin molecules in wine “soften” the fat in the steak, releasing more flavour from the meat. On the other hand the fat dulls the acidity in wine, offering a smoother taste and bringing out more of the fruit notes.
But there’s so many different types of red wine and various steak cuts, so naturally you might be wondering what wine goes with steak? In this post we’ll explore the various steak and wine combinations to help you take your steak dinner to the next level. Here at Mr Wheeler’s Wines, we help you choose better wine, so you can always rely on our expert advice on pairing wine with your meals.
So what wine goes with steak?
Cabernet Sauvignon is often referred to as the “people pleaser” of reds, so it’s a good place to start when looking for a good wine to pair with your steak dinner. A cut that pairs particularly well with a glass of deep red Cabernet is the ribeye, especially if it’s been pan seared with plenty of rosemary.
Ribeye is one of the richest steak cuts in terms of taste with lots of natural “marbling” and tenderness. The higher acidity in Cabernet Sauvignon cuts through the fatty flavours in the ribeye, providing a bit of tanginess.
Although cabernet grapes are grown all over the world, some of the best regions to try for this wine variety are Bordeaux in France, Napa Valley in California and Tuscany in Italy.
A great choice for any wine lover who enjoys their reds on the sweeter side is Zinfandel.
For pairing this type of red wine, we would recommend avoiding steaks with sweet seasoning, such as brown sugar glaze or teriyaki. Instead, pair it with a spicy, zesty seasoned steak because the sweetness can help counter some of the spice. Just like with Cabernet Sauvignon, ribeye is a good steak cut to opt for, especially when it’s been grilled on a barbecue.
The best Zinfandel wines are made in New World regions, such as California, so you wouldn’t go wrong with a wine from this area.
Syrah, also known as Shiraz is one of the wine varietals that can differ in flavour depending on where the grapes are grown, which makes it a good pairing for a variety of cuts. When grown in regions with continental climate like the Rhone Valley in France, this grape variety produces a rich, peppery wine that’s high in tannins and acidity.
When served with a fatty cut, such as the ribeye, Syrah can balance the richness of the meat. However, it would work just as well with leaner and thicker steak cuts such as a brisket or sirloin.
If you’ve chosen a slow cooked brisket, then an Australian Shiraz would be perfect to bring out the smoky flavour in the meat. But if you’re having a sirloin instead, you want to go for the French variety of this wine. A French Syrah would pair particularly well with buttery sauces with plenty of herbs.
Despite being a fine red wine Pinot Noir is often paired with lighter meats, due to its lighter flavour profile. Depending on the cut, of course, the bright, berry flavour of Pinot Noir can work splendidly with steak as well.
In general, with this type of wine, you want to stay away from fatty cuts and instead go for the leanest beef you find. A fillet steak cooked rare to medium-rear with a glass of Pinot Noir is a pair that’s hard to outmatch.
Dark and inky in colour, Malbec is rich in flavour and full of tannins. Despite this, however, its flavour profile is rather fruity with fresh notes of citrus fruits. These bold, fruity aromas make it an amazing choice to accompany leaner cuts, as all the freshness can get lost when combined with a fatty steak.
A lean flank steak, grilled and generously seasoned with salt and pepper is the perfect cut to complement the velvety texture and strong flavour of the Malbec without overshadowing it. For the best wines from this variety look no further than France.
A bone-dry Merlot with rich fruity flavours of cherry and plum, and a chocolatey finish is best served with lean, yet tender and flavourful cuts of steak.
The winning fine-dining combination here is filet mignon served with a glass (or bottle) of ruby red Merlot, preferably from the home of this varietal - Bordeaux, France. This is a pair that works because the food and wine compliment each other, bringing out different flavours. South African Merlot blends can also work splendidly with New York strip steak.
This cut has more connective tissues, but when cooked properly it’s still tender and full of flavour.
Italy’s most common wine variety and the pride of the Tuscany region, Sangiovese, expresses a versatility in flavour depending on where and how the grapes are grown. The high acidity and tannins in this wine make it a good partner for a wide variety of vegetable dishes or just about anything grilled, including steak.
Some of the best cuts to try with Sangiovese are flank and skirt steaks.
While not fully the same, these cuts are usually prepared the same way so they’re often grouped together. Due to the chewy nature of flank steaks, even when perfectly cooked, they’re rather tough.
The wine here aims to complement the beefy flavours in the rather chewy meat and take it from a daunting chore to an experience to savour.
White Wine with Steak
Rules are made to be broken, as they say, so if red wine isn’t your forte, there’s nothing stopping you from enjoying your steak dinner with a glass of white wine instead.
The wine snobs might give you some stares, but wine pairing is a process of discovery after all.
A Pinot Grigio can easily be paired with your grilled fillet steak, with a few small tweaks to accommodate the acidic flavour of the wine. To do this you can add some sharpness to your dish by adding some fresh fruit, such as pomegranate to your steak or drizzling it with some good quality balsamic vinegar.
If you’re new to the wine world, the reality is with so many possible combinations you can’t really go wrong.
The best way to find your favourite combination is by trying different ones until you find the one wine pairing that appeals the most to your taste.
Browse our full selection of red wines (or whites, we won’t judge) and discover the perfect wine to help you bring the fine dining experience straight into your home.