How many times have you been told that white wine and red meat absolutely do NOT go together? Many major figures in the culinary world have long informed us that white wine and steak are polar opposites–nay, enemies–and that their paths should never cross.
Why do so many people feel this way, though? The most common reasoning is that steak goes with red wine (as opposed to white) because the tannins in red wine soften the meat and consequently release its flavor. By tannins, we mean the chemical compounds in wine that leave a bitter, dry, and puckery feeling in your mouth. Tannins are most prominent in dry red wines such as merlot, cabernet, and pinot noir. This article on the New Rules of White Wines and Steak seeks to debunk the age-old myth that white wine and steak do not pair well together. On the contrary, we have found that white wine can pair beautifully with red meat, so long as consumers have an understanding of the cut of the steak, its fat content, and how it should be prepared.
Red and white wine lovers alike will benefit from this piece, which will expand even the most seasoned wine or steak connoisseur’s horizons. As you work on pairing white wine with steak, ask yourself the following questions:
Which cut of steak are you working with? What is its fat content?
- It is very important to consider these two questions when deciding how to pair white wine and red meat. Maggie Hoffman (@maggiejane), Managing Editor at Serious Eats, spoke with several sommeliers on this issue:
- Savanna Ray (@savvyrayray) of RingSide Fish House in Portland gave the following advice: “Steak tartare or steak with béarnaise sauce goes wonderfully with white burgundy. Montrachet or Meursault are fantastic pairings for what most would consider to be a ‘red wine meat’ because you have raw beef with the tartare and a bright herbal/lemony sauce with the béarnaise, both of which will match wonderfully with the white wine.”
- Laura Maniec (@lauramaniec) of Corkbuzz Wine Studio in New York City agrees that the “no white wines with red meat” rule is an old “and very antiquated way to look at food and wine pairing harmony. When all we served was one type of fish…then maybe this worked, but these days we have more creativity with food preparations, cooking techniques, and flavors.”
How will the meat be prepared?
- Hoffman and Serious Eats also spoke with several sommeliers regarding this question:
- Chad Zeigler (@ChadZeigler) of RN74 in San Francisco advises always “factor[ing] in the other ingredients, sauces, or spices, which can ultimately dictate the overall theme of the dish.”
- Eric Railsback (@erailsba) of Caveau in Santa Barbara concurs that “it is very important to look at the type of sauce that is being served as well as the texture of the type of protein and how it is cooked.”
Eric Railsback is one of the founders of Les Marchands Wine Bar & Merchant in Santa Barbara and the current sommelier and wine director at Mattei’s Tavern in Los Olivos. Learn more by visiting www.matteistavern.com or @erailsba on Twitter.
- A blog titled Paprika & Pinot: An Exploration of Food and Wine commented on this issue in a post titled “Pairing Steak with Chardonnay: Delicious or Blasphemy?” The author’s conclusion was that steak and white wine is “a delicious combination. The next time I want to prepare a perfect summer evening meal for dining al fresco, I will make a grilled steak [and] enjoy it with a glass of chardonnay.”
Paprika & Pinot is a food and wine blog written by a food and wine lover named Molly. Learn more by visiting www.paprikapinot.com.
- Fiona Beckett (@food_writer) of Matching Food & Wine, says that an oaky white can perform just as well as a red when it comes to steak. During a trip to Australia, Beckett found that the “sensuously creamy 2009 Heytesbury Chardonnay [paired with the] Western Australia Wagyu beef cooked with ginger, shallots, and a touch of sesame oil was the knockout match of the evening, outperforming even a [cabernet].”
Fiona Beckett is a food and wine pairing expert who runs the most comprehensive food and drink pairing website on the web. Learn more by visiting www.matchingfoodandwine.com and @food_writer on Twitter.
The verdict? These experts clearly agree that white wine and red meat can work wonderfully well together, and we think you should too! In case you need even more evidence, Food & Wine Magazine’s 2014 “Sommelier of the Year,” Patrick Cappiello (@patrickwine) confirmed to Thrillist/Food & Drink’s Jeremy Glass (@candyandpizza) that white wine and steak can easily work in perfect harmony. According to Cappiello, “a nice red will always taste incredible with a steak, but that doesn’t mean you should discount a bottle of well-chosen white. [Cappiello] suggests going for a chenin blanc or another full-bodied and fruity white wine to pair with steak. The goal is to find a white wine that mimics the robust qualities of your typical reds.” Salud!
Patrick Cappiello is the operating partner and wine director of several restaurants and a wine columnist at Playboy Magazine. Learn more by visiting www.patrickcappiello.com or @patrickwine on Twitter.