Wine Savvy on March 7, 2016 1 Comment Home chefs and menu planners have the task of selecting the right wine to serve with dinner. Choosing the right wine and beef pairings can be tricky, but there are some basic recommendations that make it easier. You may have heard that red wine is the best choice to serve with beef, and that is generally true. But with so many varieties of red wine available, and a multitude of ways to prepare beef, the question of which wine to serve with what entrée becomes trickier to answer. There are some basic rules to follow when pairing wine with beef. Read on to learn more. 1. Bold Flavors Go Together Most beef recipes are filling and hearty, and are served with starchy side dishes such as potatoes, rice or bread. Very few beef dishes can be considered light, which is why red wines go so well with beef. If your beef dish has a strong, bold flavor, you’ll want to select a wine that can stand up to it. A basic rule when pairing wines with food is to put similar flavors together. Strong goes with strong, acidic with acidic, sweet with sweet, et cetera. Here are a few examples. Beef grilled over charcoal will have an intensely smoky flavor. Choose a red wine that is rich and high in tannins to complement it. Try a Shiraz from California or Australia with your favorite steak. Lean cuts of beef, such as filet mignon, taste better with a less tannic red wine. Go with a Bordeaux, Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot. Best bets come from California, Spain and Italy. Prime rib, which is very rich and has fat marbled throughout, needs a young wine to cut through the flavor of the beef. Choose a Bordeaux from France or a Merlot that hasn’t been aged very long. Stew, brisket and ribs that have cooked slowly for hours take on a rich, earthy flavor. You’ll need a bold wine that can compete with the intensity of the dish. In this case, a slightly fruity red wine can be the perfect match. Go with a big Burgundy from France or a Zinfandel from Sonoma, California. Rules were made to be broken, and not everyone agrees that similar flavors go together. For instance, sweet wines go with spicy foods such as beef curry, but perhaps that is because there are no truly spicy wines. Some people prefer to pair opposite flavors together, and will pair a dry, acidic wine with a rich creamy sauce. The choice is simply a matter of personal preference. 2. Pair Wine and Beef by Region Recipes and types of dishes vary widely by their country of origin. Mediterranean food uses garlic, rosemary, sage and lemon. French food comes with heavy sauces. South American fare can be spicy. Californian chefs prepare light meals. As a rule, choose a wine from the region of the world that your beef recipe is from. French wine with French food, Italian wine with Italian food, and so forth. The theory is that food grown in a certain region will pair best with wine made from grapes of the same country of origin. Evidence supporting this theory is that, historically, wine was drunk with meals simply because the local water supply wasn’t suitable for drinking. Everyone drank wine, and no thought was given to wine pairings. In most areas, local wine was all that was readily available, and so that is all that was consumed by the average person. As wine-making became more of an art, the local wines continued to evolve with the local culinary traditions. So, by pairing wine from a region with food from the same region, you are more likely to get complementary flavors. 3. Simple Fare Pairs With Lighter Wines Beef is such a versatile ingredient. While steaks and roasts are commonly served for special occasions, most families opt for simpler fare during the week. There’s no need to dish out big bucks for a premium vintage if you are serving a quick, simple meal at home. If your dinner menu includes beef during the week, you’re probably cooking quick and easy meals. One of the easiest meals to throw together after work is a stir-fry. Simple cuts of tender beef sliced diagonally are paired with fresh veggies and Asian seasonings. With their intense spicy heat, stir-fries simply beg for a sweeter red wine to accompany them. Beaujolais from France and Dolcetto from Italy are excellent choices for a slightly sweet red wine. Is meatloaf a family favorite? The mixture of ground beef with chopped onions, parsley, sage and ketchup is always a crowd-pleaser, especially with a side of mashed potatoes and gravy. Don’t hesitate to serve wine with this traditional fare. Try serving Cabernet Sauvignon from California or a nice fruity Merlot made in Washington State. Hamburgers are another weeknight favorite. Topped with the bold flavors of onions, pickles, ketchup and mustard, a burger is a unique meal that can satisfy almost anyone. While some folks may prefer beer with burgers, sipping a Syrah or a red Zinfandel can be just the right thing to go with the mixture of flavors a burger presents. And don’t forget the American classic dinner, calf liver with onions and fried potatoes. Not everyone loves liver, but those who do will want the perfect wine to complement the unique flavor and texture of this dish. Spain produces a red Rioja that has just the right bite to enhance the flavor of liver. For a lighter wine, go with Pinot Noir from Oregon. Merlot from California can be just right, too. Perhaps the most important rule to remember regarding wine and beef pairings is that the best wine to serve with beef is the wine that tastes best to you. Everyone has their own preferences, and there’s no reason to drink a particular vintage with your meal simply because someone said you should. Experiment freely, stay within your budget, and keep a journal of which wines please you the most. Once you’ve tried different combinations, you’ll develop a better understanding of how to pair wine with your favorite beef recipes.