Thursday, November 19, 2015

Pairing Wine with Steak

By Liza B. Zimmerman

I have long though that simple pairings such as red with red meat and white with chicken and fish have fallen short. It is so much more insightful to talk about the method in which meat is prepared, what spices are added and what type of sauce it is made to pair with.

Steak has long been a meat-eater’s wonderland with dozens of cuts, great marbling and many suburb ways to grill, roast and sauté it. On a recent visit to one of the finest steak temples in New York, Del Frisco’s, I had a chance to connect with a very ambitious young sommelier who shares my interest in creating pairings for how the meat is cooked.

A Sommelier’s Perspective
“Different Steaks pair well with different wines depending on the fat content or ‘marbling’ of the steak. A leaner steak, like a Filet Mignon, pair best with medium-bodied wines: Merlot, Zinfandel, Pinot Noir, Grenache, Tempranillo and blends. Well-marbled steaks, like a Ribeye, pair best with full-bodied reds: such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Syrah, Malbec and blends,” says Jessica Norris, wine director at Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steak House New York.

Texture plays a key role in these pairings, as much or more than it might with fish, chicken of vegetables. Matching a steak, for Norris, is about my guests flavor profile. “The ‘wonder-pairings,’ come when the guest's preferred flavor profile is combined into a perfect match of texture, both of wine (tannins/alcohol) and texture of the steak (lean vs. marbled).”

Cabernet Sauvignons, particularly with accessible tannins are ideal go-to wines. Some of my favorite come  from a trio of great regions such as Paso Robles on California’s Central Coast; Walla Walla in Eastern Washington; and Chile way south of the border. Three superb wines, two of them that cost less then $25, include the Liberty School Cabernet Sauvignon from Paso Robles; the Marques di Casa Concha from Maipo; and the slightly more expensive L’Ecole No. 41 from Walla Walla.

Leaner cuts for Certo can melt in your mouth so a “more elegant wine with a delicate or smooth finish pairs extremely well.” With a touch of marbling she suggests a more full-bodied red.

Ideal and Easy-to-Pair Wines
Red wine with soft tannins that are accessible even when young will go with almost any steak. Certo includes, “Medium-bodied reds like Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Côtes du Rhône, Rioja, Merlot, Zinfandel, New World Blends, California Pinot Noir and Spanish Grenache,” among her favorites.

The South and Southwest of France are fantastic pairings for steaks. Cahors and Madirans reign supreme with all types of fatty meats: as their robust structure, intense fruits and subtle tannins make a beef-fueled pairing melt in your mouth. Georges Vigoroux’s "Gouleyant" Cahors is a great example that won’t break the budget.

Southern, and Northern, Rhone Valley wines are also divine with steak. Two great choices are Yann Chave Crozes-Hermitage and Domaine Raspail-Ay Gigondas. Both are hearty, expressive and time-proven appellations. If you want to head south to Italy Barbarescos—such as Produttori del Barbaresco---Nebbiolos and tightly wound Sangioveses from Tuscany would also fit the bill.
       
Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

Liza B. Zimmerman has been writing and consulting about wine and food for two decades. She is principal of the San Francisco-based Liza the Wine Chick wine writing, education and consulting firm. She has worked on staff and freelance at national magazines such as Wine Enthusiast, The Magazine of La Cucina Italiana, Wine Spectator, Where SF and the Examiner. She currently contributes to Cheers, Wine Business Monthly and the Examiner, among others.

Zimmerman focuses on demystifying wine and transforming it into a tool for business and networking for companies all over the country. Past clients include Genentech, Roche and IBM.

She has visited all the world’s major wine regions and is one of select few in the U.S. to hold the Diploma of Wine & Spirits (D.W.S.), the three-year precursor to the Master of Wine.
Photo Credit: Napa Valley Vintners

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