You do not have to be a wine cognoscente to know cabernet sauvignon plays well with the salty and fatty flavors of a rich, well-marbled steak. But, what if you want to go beyond that pairing?
Grilled steaks—strip, rib-eye, hanger—certainly pair with cab, but so do syrah and merlot. Châteauneuf-du-Pape and Gigondas (both grenache-syrah-mourvèdre blends) are in the conversation. Syrah/shiraz is a bit lighter, but brings whiffs of smokiness to its role as another cab alternative.
Rib-eye, T-bone, and porterhouse steaks win with zin. Zinfandel delivers acidity, tannins, spice, and grapey notes to complement the meat flavors. High alcohol can abet the bonhomie of the beef feast.
Leaner cuts of meat like top sirloin or flank steaks enjoy pairing with malbec and its jammy, dark fruits, and chocolate elements. If you prefer filet or tenderloin—lighter cuts with less fat and more delicate cooking such as searing and/or oven roasting—then lighter reds enter the dinner drama: pinot noir, beaujolais, nebbiolo, sangiovese.
As cuts get lighter with little or no fat like filet mignon, pairing with pinot noir certainly enters the pouring picture. A light, tasty cut such as New York strip, even with its marbling, works with gamay (Beaujolais). In both cases, the less assertive wines allow tender and delicious meat to play the lead in the meal.
Finally, if you refrain from plunking down big bucks for meat and instead chow down on comfort food like meatloaf, circle back to big reds—cab, merlot, shiraz, malbec, cab franc, red blends. Beauty here is you can go with the more affordable examples of those wines, even ones that come in boxes, and still be proud of your pair.
• Galil Mountain Winery Merlot, Galilee, Israel 2018: Soft, easy drinker. Classic approachable merlot. $13-16 Link to my review
• La Gioiosa Et Amorosa Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG NV: Vibrant, with just the touch of sweetness you want from a top-shelf prosecco. $16-22 Link to my review
• Robert Hall Paso Red, Paso Robles 2017: Bold, rich, loaded with dark ripe fruit flavor and accompanying significant alcohol. $18-20 Link to my review
• Westcave Cellars Vigneron Texas Hill Country Estate Red Wine 2018: Yet another demonstration of high-quality, well-made Texas wine. $50 Link to my review
• Daou Vineyards Estate Cabernet Sauvignon Paso Robles Adelaida District 2018: Elegant and astonishingly smooth and approachable. $85-90 Link to my review
Last round: The Swiss are so confident in their chances of victory they include a corkscrew in their army knife.