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Wine with Beef made Simple

Which Wine with Beef is a question that comes up often. Selecting the best wine to serve with beef can be simple if you are armed with a bit of knowledge. This article will give you the easy answers and will then go further to help refine your selection. For the sake of this article, we are matching beef dishes that are not served with an overwhelming sauce. If you are serving a sauce on the beef, you should look at matching wine with the sauce rather than the beef.

Do you like red wines?

The answer to that question is the most important factor in deciding what wine to have. The classic wine match to beef is red wine but we can work around that if you do not like red wines.

-- If you usually prefer red wines, consider a Cabernet Sauvignon or a Merlot. Since red Bordeaux wines are almost always made primarily from either Cabernet or Merlot, you could select a Bordeaux, too. Do not stress too much over the exact wine selection. There are a lot of very good brands from which to choose. Just pick a known brand of Cabernet, Merlot or Bordeaux in your price range and you'll be fine. Try and get a wine with a vintage date that is at least 3 years old if you can. As the wine selections get more expensive, they get more likely to have bigger flavors, more tannin and the need for more age.

There are more considerations at the bottom of this page if you want to refine the match of red wine and beef.

-- If you normally prefer dry white wines, then it would be a good time to select one of the much lighter red wines. Most people who prefer dry white wines do not appreciate the fullness of flavor and the bitterness of the tannins in Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot or Bordeaux. The good news is that not all red wines have the bitterness and flavors you want to avoid. I suggest that you try a Beaujolais or a Pinot Noir. Both of these choices are best when served slightly chilled and neither has bitterness from harsh tannins. Beaujolais is a very fruity wine from the Beaujolais region in France that is made from the Gamay grape. Beaujolais is a very good choice for individuals who prefer a fruit-forward dry white wine. Pinot Noir will seem a bit dryer than Beaujolais and is a better choice for those who have been drinking dry Chardonnays for a long time. Pinot Noir is a very good transition wine for white wine drinkers who are learning to enjoy red wines. The beef should be cooked without getting the outside charred very much, or the char should be trimmed before serving. The bitterness from the char will lessen the quality of the 'light red' wine with beef match.

-- If you usually like wine with a little sweetness, you may want to get a White Zinfandel . White Zinfandel may not seem a likely choice at first blush, but it works. Even though these wines are low in tannin, there is enough there to work with the beef. The slight sweetness also gets along will with the proteins in the beef. As a person who prefers dry red wines, I cannot tell you how surprised I was when I first tried White Zinfandel with beef. Do try to cook the beef in a way that each portion does not have an abundance of char on the outside. The bitterness found in the char can overwhelm the lighter taste of the White Zinfandel.

OK... Those are the basics. There are plenty of other wines that will work as wonderful matches with beef. They are a bit beyond the scope of this article but I will point you in the right direction. Consider a Syrah (Shiraz), a red Zinfandel or a French Rhone wine like Chateauneuf du Pape. Each has it's own flavor characteristics and will appeal to different groups of people but trying them to find out which you prefer is lots of fun. Or is it the proverbial 'tough job but someone has to do it'?

Do not make wine selection a hard decision. Just go with the guidelines listed earlier and look forward to a great time with food and friends. Whatever wine you chose, do make sure it is served at "cooler then room temperature". A good serving temperature will enhance the taste of the wine.

If you want to take the 'wine with beef' match to the next level, consider these additional aspects:

  • For very young red wines, cook the beef rarer than you might otherwise. The extra fat and protein will limit the harshness of young tannins.
  • With well aged red wines, cook the beef more than you normally would. Very rare beef can overwhelm the subtle complexity that are the desireable result of proper aging.
  • Veal may be beef but it calls for different wines. Look at Pinot Noir or Syrah (Shiraz) for lower tannin levels and a better match.
  • The char that develops on an individually grilled cut of beef (filet or steak) will match better with younger or more tannic wines. Char has bitterness that matches with the bitterness found in harsher or younger tannins.
  • Roasts and other cuts of beef that are cooked as multiple servings (rather than indivually cooked cuts like steak) develop less char per serving and match better with wines of more age or lower tannin.