This is a blog entry we wrote for wineguppy.com.
Steak is a staple of the backyard barbecue as well as one of the classics for a romantic dinner at home or out on the town. For the wine lover, it needs that appropriate libation to match it perfectly. For the many cuts of steak, many kinds of wine shine.
Oh, the Cuts
Steak has, if nothing else, an enormous variety of cuts. Each has its own characteristics which demand other flavors. For the most part, though, beef has traditionally sat at the table with red wine to match one hearty and strong flavor with another. There’s no point in serving an expensive wine with expensive meat, or vice versa, if both flavors do not possess equal status in the dinner relationship.
For the most part, a bold red with a cut of steak is a good choice. If nothing else, this pairing is workable. If you have more time to consider the wine, consider the particulars of the meat. If the cut is from a more flavorful rather than tender cut, such as the flank or from the end of the ribs, yielding London Broil or rib steaks, respectively, stronger red wines are possible or even preferable. For milder but tender cuts, such as filet mignon, very high quality wines which are a bit milder will not overwhelm. Pinot noir or even a young claret which has not had time to develop a smoky flavor will be wonderful.
How Will You Serve It?
While the wine being served “with” the steak, the wine is also being served the steak’s sauce or marinade. After all, a dry steak is wretched; even a slightly dried steak served with sauce can be drastically improved. Should the steak be served with a barbecue sauce or another tomato based sauce, Chianti is the traditional wine. Even with such a dish as spaghetti with tomato sauce, Chianti is the preferred choice. If the steak has been adorned with a piquant sauce or marinated with spices, a wine with spicier undertones will complement the meat best. In that case, a strong Zinfandel will taste best. Full-bodied European red wines will also do well. Steak au poivre, one of the best examples of a spicy steak, will not respond well to mild wines. Creamy sauces take well to full-bodied reds. A stronger Chardonnay will also take well to a creamy and fatty sauce.
If you have grilled your steak with just a bit of salt and pepper, be careful with your choices. Wines which are rounded but not overpowering work best with this preparation. Even oaked Chardonnays can be perfect here as the white wine will not overwhelm with too many tannins.