Which red wine with which red meat?

Steak on the BBQ (Photo: Bob Campbell MW)

Red wine with red meat is a good basic food and wine matching guideline. It is not necessary to follow it slavishly, of course.

A professional cook tried to convince me that lamb could make a good match with chardonnay by serving several dishes with several great white Burgundies. She nearly succeeded. Everything was delicious, but a little voice in my head kept saying “it won’t work”, so of course it didn’t. I think the term to describe that is psychological predetermination.

But back to red wine with red meat. Once you buy into that concept the next question is – which red wine with which red meat? The response to that is generally fatty, flavoursome red meat requires a full-flavoured and solidly-structured red to make the world move slightly.

Lamb is a high fat, high flavour meat. Convention suggests that the intense flavour and firm tannic structure of cabernet sauvignon make it a natural bedfellow with lamb. I can’t disagree with that. Both have strong flavours (tick) and the tannins in the wine cut through the fattiness in the meat (tick), while the fat does a good job restraining otherwise excessively grippy tannins (tick).

Conversely, a low fat, low flavour meat such as Cervena makes a good match with softer more restrained red wines like pinot noir and merlot. That’s also valid, although I do think that pinot noir and merlot are naturally more food friendly than beefier reds such as cabernet sauvignon and syrah.

I think that cooking method is a more important factor in choosing a happy couple than the level of flavour and fattiness in the meat.

In my experience fresh meat that’s quickly seared and served slightly bloody tends to make a better match with fruitier, fresher and more youthful reds. Slow-cooked dishes like lamb shanks and braised beef are better with older reds. I like the combination of slightly gelatinous meat with older wines that have savoury, Bovril, forest floor characters.

I may be on thin ice here but the slow-cooked meat/old wine combination works for me.

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