- Cabernet sauvignon is the most versatile wine to pair with beef. Among the most powerful and concentrated red varietals, cabernet sauvignon can also be elegant at the same time. For its part, beef has a flavor that’s bold and yet refined at the same time. In this way, cabernet “mirrors” beef.
- Fruitiness in food and fruitiness in wine have natural synergy. Dishes with a significant fruit component to them often pair beautifully with fruity red wines like shiraz.
- Certain cuts of beef like flank steak and chuck are often very flavorful. They need a wine that’s bold and lipsmacking. Simple but fruity merlots and zinfandels work well, as do most inexpensive reds. Middle meat cuts from the rib and loin—like tenderloin, strip steak and prime rib—are at their best with more sophisticated, complex (sometimes more expensive) wine.
- Seasonings and spices often act as a bridge to wines. As a simple example, sprinkling beef with some cracked black pepper helps the dish marry well with syrah/shiraz, which has a black pepper–like flavor. Herbs in a beef dish can underscore the hint of herbal flavor in many cabernet sauvignons and bordeaux. The seasonings to be careful with are hot chiles, which can make a wine taste hollow. Chiles need a cushion of sweetness to land on, so fiery-hot beef dishes often do best with a white wine that has a bit of residual sugar. Wines with a lot of oak flavor often need a bridge to connect them to beef. Toasted nuts, brown butter and sesame oil are all excellent bridges to oaky chardonnay.
- The biggest mistake in pairing beef and wine is adding blue cheese to the dish. Blue cheese is one of the most powerfully pungent, salty and microbial foods. It makes most wines—red and white—taste dull and insipid. So save the blue cheese for dessert and serve it with a sweet fortified wine such as port.