Part 1 – Beef
Pairing food with wine or wine with food? Seems a calembour, a wordplay, but if you think a moment, the two things are very different.
In the first case if you’re at a restaurant or home and you are having a particular dish, you need to decide which wine matches better. Pairing wine with food, instead, is when you have a new wine or a special bottle to taste and you’re thinking of what to prepare to enjoy the wine at its best. Either way, it’s always interesting.
The first rule of pairing food with wine or vice versa is that…there are no rules! You can drink what you like, but, since the purpose of drinking wine when you’re dining is to enhance the food, well let’s take a look at a few suggestions.
The purpose of this article is not just to say what goes with what, but why it goes well. Having more knowledge on different grape varieties and wine characteristics, makes it easier to choose wines closer to our tastes.
Where should we start? I guess we could start with meat. Here we have a wide variety of meats that I prefer to distinguish and separate, even on how it is prepared.
Grilled and Barbecued Steak
Steak is packed with proteins and fat. Here we need a full-bodied red wine with notable tannins and bold fruit flavours to bind with the fat and protein of the meat. Acids and alcohol will cut the fat contrasting the heaviness of the meat as refreshing. These characteristics of the wine will adjust the palate giving a less greasy sensation. In change the fat and proteins will reduce the astringent, mouth-puckering effect of tannins.
Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot are classic favorites with grilled and barbecue steak. Full body, higher alcohol content, firm tannins and acidity make these wines a perfect match. Sicilian Nero d’Avola would have the necessary tannins and alcohol content. If the steak is flavoured with black pepper, try a Syrah which is a spicier red with mellow tannins and a softer body.
Pairing wine to roast beef is not a complicated issue. Lighter and medium-bodied. However a wine that results too fruity could overpower your roast in flavour while a lighter flavoured wine would difficultly be appreciated. Well-balanced tannins will enhance the roast while a wine too high in tannins will give a dry aspect to your dish.
An important element to consider is the cooking of the roast: will it be rare, medium or well-done?
Rare or medium roasts will retain more juice, will be more flavourful and tender. Let’s pair them with young reds which are bright, higher in alcohol and tannins. Flavour to flavour, juiciness to astringency, tenderness to alcohol and acidity. A dry, medium to fuller-bodied Cabernet Sauvignon or a Nero d’Avola blend with mineral notes are a good match.
Well-done roasts are slightly less flavourful and juicy so the red wines need to have a more delicate flavour, barrel-aged and softer in tannins. The flavour of these wines will not overpower the flavour of the roast and the tannins will not be so abrasive to the less juicy meats.
Let’s consider wines like Pinot Noir, Merlot also blended with Cabernet Sauvignon, Sicilian Frappato and why not a Rosè.