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Brad Johnson

Steak Wine Pairing | Best Steak & Wine Pairing Options

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Whether you’re a sommelier (with sommelier classes under your belt) working with a restaurant or you want to improve your home culinary abilities, a steak wine pairing is useful to know-along with a lamb wine pairing. This is a common dinner choice for customers at all kinds of establishments, from chain restaurants to five-star ones. Even if you're buying a winery, this is something you should know more about.

Wine flavors are as diverse as any food, though, which is why wine pairing knowledge is so crucial. You also want to approach it differently than wine pairing with salmon, wine pairing with chicken, and turkey wine pairing, because each flavor and texture is distinct. 

Though a wine aroma kit can teach you the basics, it’s wise to learn about specific wine varietals that go well with steak. Keep reading for our recommendations on steak wine pairing. 

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What Wine Pairs With Steak?

There are many wines that pair with steak, but sweeter red wine types tend to be the best fit. Most red wines offer fruity aromas and tastes that bring out the savory, spiced, and herby elements of steak. They also span the breadth of tannin characteristics, offering you light or strong dryness depending on the recipe you’re making. 

Steak is a dish that often has as diverse an ingredient list as the wines that go with it. As such, it’s important to understand which flavors complement each other and what the right red wine serving temperature is. Since steak is already a substantial meal, you don’t want to choose a wine that will overwhelm your palate with too many rich flavors. 

Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Zinfandel are some of the most popular choices to pair with steak. Each of these wines embodies various red and black fruits, ranging from the sweetness of strawberries to the tangy, woodsiness of currants and cherries. 

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Red Wine To Pair With Steak

Steak is a dish that can be prepared dozens of ways--from sweet, leaner dishes to peppery, spicy, and fatty ones. The herbs and sauces used in the main meal can guide you towards which red wine to pair with steak. 

For richer steak meals, both Shiraz and Sangiovese varieties make excellent pairs. Shiraz has a peppery sweetness to it that both complements fatty dishes and provides a counterpoint for them.

Shiraz is one of several red wine types that’s grown in moderate climates like the Moselle Valley, southern Chile, Bordeaux, and New Zealand. This gives it higher tannin and acidity levels, deepening the flavor dimensions in fat-heavy steak dinners. 

For lighter dishes, Malbecs and Pinot Noirs are great choices. Malbec is a well-rounded classic for its chocolatey notes, red fruit tastes, and because it’s a low acid wine. This pleasant, smooth flavor profile pairs naturally with leaner cuts of meat. 

Pinot Noir is similarly light and fruity, offering cherry, forest floor, and vanilla flavors. Its natural sweetness comes partly from being aged in oak barrels, partly from the grape type, and partly from its terroir.

Pinot Noir is made with Vitis vinifera grapes--one of the varieties known for producing more sugar in wine. It’s also usually grown in cool-to-temperate climates with just the right amount of sun. Too little sun will create highly acidic wine, whereas too much can override the aromatic and taste complexity of Pinot Noir. 

If all of this information feels difficult to remember, don’t worry. You can refer to our types of wine chart to refresh you on wine flavors, sweetness levels, and aromas whenever you need to. 

Best Wine To Pair With Steak

There’s no single best wine to pair with steak, but on the whole, sweet red wines make excellent matches. Since steaks are often made with zesty, potent spices, the fruity, citrusy tastes of reds balance out robust steak flavors. This combo will have you asking, "Is wine an aphrodisiac?", it's just that good.

Zinfandels and Cabernets are two such examples that offer you variety in meal pairing. A Zinfandel is great if you want sweet red and black fruit flavors, like boysenberry, plum, and cranberry. It offers a full-bodied mouthfeel, higher wine alcohol content, and medium tannin levels. The sweet consistency of this wine balances your palate between each bite. 

Cabernet is a great choice as well, largely for its herbaceous and oaky tastes. Its naturally strong tannin levels and woodsy presence contrasts the spiciness of most steak preparations. Cabernets also offer black cherry, pepper, and blackcurrant flavors, which are bold and acidic. This sweet yet piquant flavor profile mixes well with savory, umami-like steaks. 

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Frequently Asked Questions About Steak Wine Pairing

Everyone wants to impress guests at their dinner party, but making this happen is easier said than done. Preparing a delicious meal is only half the battle because you need drinks that take the recipe to its fullest potential. 

We took a look at frequently asked questions about steak and wine pairing and compiled our answers below. Check them out now: 

What Wine Goes Best With A Ribeye Steak?

Cabernet Sauvignon is one of the most common choices for ribeye steak pairing. Ribeye is one of the fattiest cuts of steak, so a dry wine like Cabernet Sauvignon makes a great pair. 

Although Cabernet is grown throughout several regions and climates, it is known for strong tannins, full mouthfeel, and dark fruit tastes. Flavors like green pepper, tobacco, black cherry, and cassis are characteristic of this highly acidic wine. 

What Drink Goes Best With Steak?

There are many drinks that go well with steak, including whiskey, beer, types of white wine and red wine, martinis, and even non-alcoholic beverages. An Old Fashioned, rye, or bourbon whiskey goes great with steak, as the smoky aromas match the meal effortlessly. 

Beers like pale ales, stouts, and Pilsners have dry tastes and medium alcohol content that naturally complement the rich, juicy texture of steak. Some beers that have mild to strong hops and spices make a great pair too, as their flavors match the herbiness of steak recipes. 

Martinis are a good choice too because vodka offers a bitter taste but smooth mouthfeel that supports steak’s sensory experience. Steak is a dense meat dish that requires space to truly absorb, which is why vodka and vermouth works so well as a palate cleanser. 

Does Pinot Noir Go With Steak?

Yes, Pinot Noir is one of the best wines to pair with leaner steak meals. This red wine type is on the light-to-medium side of the spectrum, offering red fruit flavors like raspberry, cherry, and cranberry. 

Pinot Noir’s innate aromas--like mushroom, wet leaf, and clove--offer an intricacy that other wines cannot. Since this wine is best to pair with lighter steak dishes, it’s easier to notice these subtleties between sips and when you’re smelling wine.

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All For Wine, Wine For All

Perfecting your steak wine pairing is a skill that requires time. As you concoct different recipes and try various drinks with them, you’ll notice which spices complement the flavors in a wine. 

The best part about food and wine pairing is the freedom to experiment. Yes, expert insights do hold value, but creating your own experience is the most rewarding. 

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