What Wines Go Well With Steak?
June 11, 2019
One of the best things about Paso Robles is the great diversity of local food and wine available. You can purchase fish, field greens, nuts, grains, bread, pasta, and meats all from San Luis Obispo County—a rare culinary cornucopia. Fortunately, we also produce a broad selection of wines from crisp whites and fruity rosés that pair well with salads and fish, to dark, powerful reds that pair nicely with bolder, fattier meals. Given Paso Robles’ history as a cattle producing region going back to the days of the Spanish missions and sprawling ranchos, nothing says Paso like an oak fire-grilled beef steak and a glass of red wine.
We asked Laird Foshay, Proprietor and Paul Hinschberger, Winemaker, of Rangeland Wines to guest blog and share their wine and meat pairing expertise with us.
Pairing red wines with red meat is a cliché, but it is such a naturally good combination that we really don’t need to reinvent this tradition. The juiciness and mellow fat on a good steak can complement and moderate the rich fruit flavors and tannins (astringency) of a bold red wine—while white wines can often be overwhelmed by these qualities.
What Type of Wine Pairs Well With Beef Steaks
The classic steak is a grilled ribeye seasoned with salt and pepper. This cut has ample fat and flavor to stand up to the heartiest of red wines, provided there is enough acidity to freshen your palate. Cabernet is a common beef steak pairing, but the herbal notes and spicier tannins of a Cab Franc or Bordeaux blend will elevate the meal.
Leaner, milder flavored cuts like filet mignon (beef tenderloin) open the door to lighter bodied red wines like Pinot Noir and Mourvèdre—the savory, aromatic “M” in your GSM Rhône blend. Tenderloin is often served with a sauce and you may want to balance your selection to suit.
Another more casual Paso Robles classic is sirloin tri-tip grilled over an oak fire. This preparation is usually well rubbed with salt, pepper and garlic, served in thick slices with buttery, toasted garlic bread and a side of not too sweet ranch beans. The smoky influence of live oak firewood and lean, well grained but flavorful meat calls for a nice, fruity Zinfandel. This rustic combo of tri-tip and Zin will rival the finest of banquets for pure pleasure.
What About Steak Sauces?
A major consideration in deciding which wine to pair with your steak is whether your meal includes a sauce or gravy. For instance, a creamy or buttery sauce, like bechamel, may even call for a full-bodied white wine such as Chardonnay or Roussanne.
Oh no, we just broke red meat with red wine rule.
If you’re sticking with the more traditional steak sauces such as peppercorn au poivre or an herb chimichurri, then a Bordeaux blend would do nicely.
A sweet fruit reduction sauce may call for a less acidic wine like a ripe Syrah, since sweet foods highlight the perceived acidity in the wine, and you don’t want to overdo tartness.
A dark mushroom sauce may call for a fruitier choice like a Grenache, so your meal can elevate off the forest floor and you can enjoy the contrast in flavors.
Wine Pairings with Lamb, Pork, Venison and Other Beefs
Beef is not the only meat choice, of course, Paso Robles has locally grown lamb, pork and occasionally venison and bison to choose from too. Local butcher shop J&R Natural Meats has a broad selection of meats and charcuterie.
Lamb will generally pair like beef, with the rib rack and loin chops corresponding to the center cuts of the beef: ribeye and New York strip. Many people use a Mediterranean-influenced lamb recipe with generous herb crusting including rosemary, garlic, thyme, etc. These preparations suggest a Sangiovese, Tempranillo, or Counoise pairing to honor the regional tradition of the particular cuisine you are exploring. In France, for example, lamb is traditionally paired with Syrah. These pairings are often preceded by hundreds of years of experience, so they are more than worth a try. On the English end of the lamb spectrum, a lighter, claret style Cabernet will also pair well with your roast leg of lamb.
When we think pork, we think of a fried chop slathered in caramelized onions. The sugar in the onions and the fatty edge call for a tannic but not too acidic red like Petite Sirah. For pork ribs with a sweet barbeque sauce think Syrah, Petite Sirah or a ripe, jammy Zinfandel. If you prefer salty or vinegar dominated rubs and sauces with your ribs, a dark, suave Merlot or hard to find Barbera can be a fine choice. The French often pair pork with Pinot Noir—a lighter colored red meat with a lighter bodied red wine.
Grass-fed beef, bison, and venison are on a spectrum of leaner, darker, more flavorful meats that can be roughly grouped for pairing. They differ from grain-fed beef, which is typically well marbled, with white fat, tender pink meat, and a sweet flavor. Truly pasture-fed beef will have a much darker color (the animal is better exercised), firmer meat, more colorful fat but less of it, and a more intense flavor profile. This darker style of grass-fed meat might call for a fruity young Cabernet, Malbec, or GSM.
With these leaner red meats, braised recipes, stews and roasts with gravy will be more common rather than a grilled steak. These dark, savory but not so fatty dishes can benefit from moderate tannins and good acidity for contrast. Think about pouring balanced wines with medium body, rather than merely big tannic types.
Choosing the Best Wine Pairing
Despite all the prescriptive guidance available about pairing, it’s not an exact science. It’s more of an interpretive art where creativity, fun, and pleasure should be your guide. Here is a set of non-rules to consider when pairing wines with food:
- There aren’t any hard and fast rules that always work
- Acidic wines cleanse fat from the palate
- Tannins are tamed by protein
- Spicy food is moderated by sweet wine
- Salty food pairs with acidic and tannic wines
- Pairings can be fun: try pairing like with like, or try contrasting flavors for a zanier approach
*Use our handy dandy filter to sort by Paso Robles wine types
Recharging and Celebrating Paso Robles
You come to Paso Robles for good wine and food and more. You want to escape the pressure of daily life and get a little taste of nature. You find here a beautifully oak-studded landscape balanced authentically between wine and food production, much of it managed sustainably. Of course, you want a steak with a glass of good red wine to celebrate life and treat yourself.
Pairing with the right red wine can elevate that experience beautifully. Rangeland Wines offers estate raised grass-fed beef and lamb and Cabernet Sauvignon, all of which are authentic expressions of Adelaida District terroir.
And if beef doesn’t suit you, we have an excellent guide on pairing wine with fish and seafood as well.