Red wine with steak. A classic, delicious pairing. But why do these partners go so well together? We thought we’d briefly discuss the nature of red wine, both by itself and alongside steak. Our goal is to help you pick the best wine for your perfect steak.
The Nature of Red Wine
The five components of wine’s flavor are fruit, sweetness, tartness, alcohol, and tannins. All of these affect how wine pairs with steak. Fruity flavors and sweetness highlight savory flavors by contrast. Tartness also heightens with contrast, this time the richness of well-marbled meat. Alcohol vapors carry flavors to the nose, intensifying your senses. Finally there are the tannins, which make red wine with steak such a particularly delicious combination.
Tannins come from structural parts of plants, such as skins. Thus they enter red wine, which is fermented with the skins. Their effect is a ‘drying’ feeling (not to be confused with ‘dry’ as opposed to ‘sweet’ in wine). When drunk with rich meat such as steak, the tannins interact with fat. This improves the taste of both -- the tannins soften, letting juicier flavors through. Meanwhile, the fat lightens, framing meaty flavors and keeping richness from becoming heavy. This synergy makes a perfect steak even tastier.
Tannic Red Wine With Steak
The usual recommendation is that fattier steaks take more tannic wines. To explore this combination, look for these grape varieties on the labels: Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Sangiovese, or Malbec. Remember that red wines taste best slightly cooled but not chilled. This temperature prevents cold from dulling the flavors and allows the alcohol vapors to best carry them.
Less Tannic Options
However, strongly tannic wines can be a little daunting. The drying, puckering sensation isn’t to everyone’s taste. As long as there’s a bit of tannin you can still successfully pair the red wine with steak. Some popular grape varieties with lower tannins are: Pinot Noir, Gamay, Dolcetto, Cabernet Franc and Lambrusco. Also, avoid wines that have been aged in oak. Because oak is high in tannins it also contributes them to the wine.
A Note On Wine Sauce For Your Perfect Steak
Hundreds of thousands of words discuss cooking with wine. However, here’s one important note. When wine is used in cooking its flavors intensify at different rates. Hence, tannins strengthen quite a bit. A wine with relatively low tannins can produce a sauce with rather higher levels. Keep this in mind when choosing a wine to make your sauce with, so you don’t overwhelm your perfect steak with an imbalance of tannins.
In the end the best red wine with steak is the one you want most to drink. Use our notes here to guide your selection, and our other blog posts to help you grill up the perfect steak. Then enjoy this perfect pairing, red wine with steak.