Thursday, March 24, 2016

Pairing Wine with Grilled Steak

By Liza B. Zimmerman

As the last traces of cool weather start to evaporate from the sky we will be segueing into eating lighter meat dishes: at least some of the time! So here’s a primer on what to pair with those last hearty beef dishes of winter and some of the lighter ones for springtime.

Choosing the right wine for the pairing has as much to do with the type of meat as how it is cooked. Seared or barbequed meats will pair better with big, tannic reds that can cut through the crunch of the fire on the exterior of the meats. The same goes for fatty and marbled meats as tannins interplay beautifully with layers of fat. If you add any kind of sweet sauce as a marinade you will also want to find a red with a fairly high alcohol level—think California Cabernets and Zins as well as Portuguese wines from the Douro—so it pairs some sweetness with the flavor.

Malbec from Argentina or the South of France would be ideal. The French region of Cahors specializes in Malbec-based wines, although they call the grape “Cot.” Georges Vigoroux "Gouleyant" Cahors Malbec 2013 is a great example of the wonders that they work in this lesser-known French region.

Brazilian Style
Few denizens of the globe enjoy their meat as much as residents of Brazil. When I visited years ago the only disappointment was how much they overcooked a lot of the meat, as is done in much of South America.

Fortunately stateside we can get meat cooked at any temperature we like, even at a Brazilian restaurant. I spoke to Ryan Metcalf, general manager at San Francisco’s new Fogo de Chao location about his strategy to pair grilled meat and wine.

He agrees that level to which the meat is cooked can strongly affect the best wine pairings. “If one likes their meat on the well-done side, I’d recommend a lighter, gentler red wine as a lot of the fat has been cooked and melted away. If one prefers their meat medium-rare, I’d advise a richer, spicier wine to help compliment the rich flavors from fat.”

The Bodegas Renacer “Punto Final” Malbec would be a good choice with medium- to well-done meats. So would the Liberty School Paso Robles Cabernet Sauvignon 2013. For rarer meats you might want to go with a softer Rhone blend such Kermit Lynch Cotes du Rhone 2014. The fact that the bulk of the wines from this region are blends will also tend to soften their interaction with meats.

Wines that have robust tannins will also stand up to fatty meats better. “Tannin in wine can neutralize or balance fattier meats like rib eye or Fraldinha [marbled bottom sirloin]. Fat is integral to flavor but can coat your palate and inhibit your ability to experience maximum flavor.  Tannin balances this by actually pulling that film off your palate,” said Metcalf.

Other red wine styles that are rich in tannins include California Zinfandels, such as Ridge Vineyards "Three Valleys" Red 2011 or those made in the Sierra Foothills, such as Mountain View Amador County Zinfandel 2013. Bordeaux blends, either from the mother country or sourced in California will also excel. The Chateau Mirefleurs Bordeaux Superieur 2012 would be a great choice as would Bodegas La Cartuja Priorat 2013. The 14.5 percent alcohol by volume level on the second wine will also give it certain sweetness in the mouth that will interact nicely with grilled meat.

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.

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