About Time: You Understood Red WineBy Anna Dack
Imagine the scenario: you’re out to dinner with a client, or worse, a hot date, and after reciting a complex meaty food order to the waiter, they politely request you choose the wine….. It’s happened before hasn’t it? Immediately, panicking under pressure you remember the old-age culinary rule: ‘red with meat, white with fish’, and within an instant you’ve let your finger glide over the wine menu and casually let it land on a satisfactory bottle that fits these loose guidelines – Job well done.
When it comes to a cut of meat, I too originally thought that a dry, red wine was good enough. The reasoning makes perfect sense: a tannic, smooth red wine will dry out your mouth and let the juices from the meat shine through spectacularly. Try and explain this to someone clued-up on their grapes however, and they’ll probably shake their head in shame and insist that there’s so much more to it than that. Boast that you just love a bottle of Merlot from Bordeaux, and that might well be game-over.
In attempt to distinguish my Shiraz from my Sangovasie and my Chianti from my Claret, I recently sat down with legendary STK Executive Chef Barry Vera, and Penfolds Wine Ambassador Sam Stephens, to find out if pairing wine with red meat really is as simple as “dry, red wine.”
Here are some top tips they taught me to help identify the best wines to compliment a juicy meal:
#1 Consider the Cut
When it comes to pairing red meat with wine, always first consider the cut of meat you’ll be eating: for steaks, this could be a filet, a ribeye, or a succulent sirloin. Each cut will give you a variety of flavours and juices that must be considered when choosing your wine. If the cut is more flavourful rather than tender, such as a ribeye, stronger red wines are preferable to accentuate the delicious juices. For milder but tender cuts, such as filet, look for a wine with more flavour – something smoky with oak tones will be delicious.
We Tried: USDA sirloin with Penfolds Bin 150 Marananga Shiraz 2011
#2 Test the Texture
All cuts of meat come in a variety of textures. Fatty, tender, dry – whatever the texture, it’s crucial to take into account the best ways to balance out the affects it has on your taste buds. Fatty cuts of meat, like a ribeye, will overlubricate the mouth, while astringent, raw cuts of meat, like Wagyu, might dry it out. When used in combination though, the tannins or acids in wine, react with each other to produce a sensation that’s just perfect.
We Tried: Japanese wagyu ceviche with Penfolds Cellar Reserve Sangiovese 2007
#3 Savour the Flavours
Red meat is very rarely served dry, and it’s important to consider the sauces and sides when weighing up your red wine options. If the meat has been adorned with a hot sauce or marinated with spices, a wine with spicier undertones will complement the meat best. Softer, creamy or tomato based sauces however will take well to full-bodied reds – always look for a contrast in flavours and mix and match accordingly!
We Tried: Steak tartare with Penfolds Cellar reserve Pinot Noir 2009
#4 Acidity is Key
Acidity is the characteristic in wine that enhances it’s refreshing, crisp qualities, and there’s a very simple rule to follow when knowing how much you need: acidic foods require high-acid wines, and sweet foods require richer, flavourful wines. Red meat is heavy, juicy and is richly served with the intention of filling you up until morning, and for this reason, acidity is key. On a hot afternoon after a rich and heavy meal, what would you rather? More richness in your mouth, or something thirst-quenching to counterbalance everything? The same applies for puddings – the sweeter the dessert, the richer and fruiter you want the red wine!
We Tried: ‘Chocolate BFG’ (Black Forest Gateaux) with Penfolds Grandfather Fortified