Wine and steak—are two of our favorite things! Steak is a natural choice for special occasions—a symbol of riches and plenty. Its health benefits (and risks) have been well-researched. In moderate amounts, red meat is a good source of iron, B12, and Zinc. Red wine (in moderate amounts) is known to be rich in antioxidants, lower bad cholesterol, and lower your risk for heart disease. Together, and in the right amounts, wine and steak might actually be good for you again! Scientists have shown that some polyphenols (antioxidants) in the wine work to inhibit the bad cholesterol that is often found in red meat.
In a hurry? Picking out a bottle of wine to go with your dinner doesn’t have to be complicated: just order a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon, and call it done. Cabernet is a great choice that tends to go with all red meats pretty well.
But if you are looking for a pairing that is a little more thought-out, then we have a great cheat sheet for you to use! We broke down our list of wines according to the type of meat. After all, brisket and a Delmonico steak are two very different kinds of meat.
Before we jump in, here’s a note. Your wine selection is likely to change significantly depending on the sauce and seasoning that you use on your meat. A dry red wine may indeed be a good choice for many of these options. But if you use a sweet sauce on your meat, you might want to consider a sweet wine or even a white wine for a pairing choice. For instance, a creamy Chardonnay would go great with beef stroganoff. Pinot Noir is a good choice for a sauce with mushrooms, and Syrah pairs well with pepper.
(There’s a great infographic here that shows where each cut of meat is from on the cow, and how each cut of meat is best prepared.)
Steak and red wine are a powerhouse combo. The reason might actually be the tannins found in the wine. Tannins are the chemicals that are found in the skin and the seeds of wine grapes. Tannins actually help to break down the fat in the steak. The resulting naturally occurring chemicals dance with human salivary proteins. They pull out these proteins, elevating the beef flavor.
Astringency is the puckery, dry-mouth sensation one feels when drinking wine. It puts the pucker to your puss! But the fat in the steak helps reduce the astringency of the wine. Therefore, the wine helps the steak, and the steak helps the wine. It’s a symbiotic, mutually beneficial relationship!
There is some debate as to whether or not the steak is actually doing this or if it’s the seasoning on the steak that cuts the wine’s astringency. Tim Hanni, the author of Why You Like the Wines You Like, says this. “The idea that the ‘fats and protein in the meat will smooth out the wine’ is an easily disproved myth backed up by pseudo-science. The fat and protein make a red wine seem more bitter and astringent, and it is the salt that you put on a steak (salt suppresses bitterness in general) that makes the red wine seem smoother.”
Just to be sure that the wine-steak combo is maximized, you may want to ensure that salt is a key ingredient in the recipe
Sirloin is a naturally lean, thick cut of steak. Its bold beef flavor and relatively low price make it a very popular cut of meat. Sirloin cooks well with marinades and sauces. Our choices for a sirloin include these red wines, that range from medium-bodied Cabernets to dry Italian reds:
This is the meat located between the cow’s ribs, which makes it a naturally tender and juicy steak. Ribeye is a favorite among real steak lovers! It has just the right amount of fat. We have picked out wines that tend to have high tannins, which help to cut through the juiciness of the steak.
The Porterhouse is the king of all steaks—and it’s called that mostly for its size. Porterhouses are known to be served in supersize portions! It’s also a superior cut of meat, and the combo means that it tends to be pretty expensive. As a cut, the Porterhouse and the T-Bone are tender, rich, and flavorful. It’s a perfect combo of fleshy filet with the top loin meat. When you see pictures of it, it usually has some fat marbleizing the meat.
Filet Mignon is usually a dainty cut of meat with very little fat. Cut from the middle of the cow, the Filet Mignon packs a wallop of flavor in a small package. Pair this meat with a wine that will really bring out the seasoning. (If you wrap this meat with bacon, go with the Pinot Noir.)
Strip steak comes from the top part of the short loin behind the ribs. It consists of a muscle that does little work, the longissimus, making the meat particularly tender. (It’s still less tender than a tenderloin.) The strip steak is sometimes a NY Steak, Top Loin, or Kansas City Steak.
Appropriately named, it comes from the rear of the cow. Rump roast is usually slow-cooked and makes for great beef stew or pot roast. Beware that rump steaks very frequently have thick sauces cooked with them, so be sure to choose a wine that complements the sauce.
Flank skirts are flavorful, but they are very lean and contain almost no fat. They can be tough, so preparation is important. As such, you probably want to marinate a flank steak. Be sure to choose your wine to best complement your marinade. Or consider marinating your steak in the wine you want to drink later with dinner!
For BBQers, brisket is the holy grail of grilling. Brisket comes from the lower chest area. It’s a highly-used muscle that helps a cow stand upright. Butchering this cut is important because if it’s not done right, you might get a lot of ligaments that you don’t want. Our overall picks include:
Really, for brisket, the sauce matters. That’s especially true if you are doing BBQ. Here are some sauce-specific suggestions:
North Carolina BBQ Sauce (sweet)
South Carolina BBQ Sauce (spicy mustard)
Kansas City BBQ Sauce
When it comes to pairing with steak, choosing a red wine is your safest route. A medium-bodied Cabernet Sauvignon is the best overall choice. But you can really refine your selection to bring out the best in your meat. Remember that when you serve red wine, it should be served at cellar temperature, which is about 50-55°F.
Also, decanting your red wine is an expert idea. Check out our awesome selection of artisan-made decanters here to take your steak and wine dinner to the next level.
If you want to go a little rogue and play with whine wine to pair with your meal, check out this article. You’ll see what happened when a professor of Wine, Gastronomy and Management paired up with a Le Cordon Bleu master chef.