We have all heard it and most of us have followed this simple rule once or twice: red wine pairs with red meat or as a good friend of mine likes to say, “a slab and a cab” (I am from Texas now). But is it really that easy? The answer is yes, and no. We can all grab a steak from Omaha Steaks and a bottle of Cabernet from the grocery store and have an enjoyable experience, but we want something, we DESERVE something more. We are looking for the experience that opens our eyes and makes us crave that next bite and sip. That moment where the world seems to stop and all that matters is what your palate is experiencing. These are the pairings that you will remember for many years to come and with a little thought and energy, it is a memory you can create.
When looking to create that perfect pairing, it is important to recognize all the components that you are working with. Are you enjoying a rib eye, fillet or flat iron? Will it be braised or grilled or pan seared? And which red wine is in the glass, Cabernet, Pinot Noir or maybe even something Italian? One of the key factors in pairing red wine with red meat is fat and tannin. Tannin is the drying sensation that you experience when drinking a great glass of red and comes from both the grape skin and the oak barrel that the wine is aged in. Tannin is important when speaking about pairing because tannin in wine will cut through the fat in meat. So, if your meat has a higher fat content, like a rib eye, pair it with a wine high in tannin – Napa Cabernet Sauvignon would be perfect. On the other hand, if you like a filet, which has a lower fat content, you do not need a wine with as much tannin and a Pinot Noir will work great.
The other important rule to remember when pairing red meat with wine is the preparation. When pan frying red meat, look for jammy and spicy reds such as a Zinfandel, Malbec or Shiraz while roasts will work well with Pinot Noir or a blend from the Rhone. And for the grilling season ahead, reach for something that has a touch more of an oak presence such as a Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot. Both of these wines will complement the charred flavors from the grill quite nicely.
Red wine with red meat is a great rule of thumb and with a little energy, it can be the basis for a great wine and food pairing experience! Experiment with these simple rules and you will be well rewarded. And what to do with the sauces that grace our plates, we will get to that next week… Cheers!