When pairing wine with meat, there are a couple of different things to consider compared to pairing wine with cheese or with fish. The levels of tannin in the wine, which cut of meat you prefer, and how you enjoy eating meat – rare, medium, or well-done – are all factors to consider when deciding which wine to pour in the glass to accompany your meal.
‘Lighter meat, white wine’ is a very good rule when thinking of poultry; white meat like turkey pairs delightfully with white wines like Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. Dark meat poultry like duck, an assertive, oily, and gamey flavour, goes beautifully with medium bodied, red wines such as Zinfandel and Pinot Noir.
Chicken has a light flavour and medium textured meat, but roast chicken can easily take a red wine like a Beaujolais. Other chicken dishes, like poached or fried chicken, will pair nicely with a dry Chenin Blanc from the Loire Valley or an Italian Lambrusco.
For a stronger poultry meat flavour, quail is the ideal choice. With a medium taste between chicken and duck, this tender meat has a sweet, nutty hint. A Pinot Noir for roasted quail, or a Colombard for poached quail, will ensure that the softness of the meat isn’t lost with a lovely glass of wine.
Grilled pork can be paired up with an Italian Chianti, while pork with a creamy sauce will favour a slightly oaked Chardonnay or a Vouvray wine from the Loire Valley. A delicious, roast pork dish can be accompanied with a French Northern Rhône wine; pairing wine with a traditional roast pork and apple sauce, however, requests a Bairrada wine from Portugal or a Côtes du Rhône Villages wine.
If you prefer a white wine, a roast pork belly will match perfectly with a dry German Gewürztraminer or an Old Vine Chenin Blanc. For cured pork or charcuterie meats, you can serve a French Cabernet Sauvignon or, if you enjoy a delicate sparkling wine, you can choose an Italian Prosecco.
When thinking about pairing wine with beef, you need to consider the cut and how you like your meat to be done. A fatty steak or cut will soften the perception of tannins and alcohol levels so, if you prefer a cut with a bit more fat and on the rare side, a ‘big red’ wine like a Châteauneuf-du-Pâpe from France will taste smoother and mellower.
Well-done steaks lose the fat as they cook, which reduces their ability to counterbalance the perception of tannins. A high tannin wine like a Malbec will taste more bitter with the same cut, if well-done. A lean cut fillet steak will be elevated with softer tannin wines, like a Chianti or a Pinot Noir.
A filet mignon is a delicate cut, and you will need to pair it with a wine that won’t overpower its taste; dry reds like a Merlot or a Sangiovese, or a rich, white Chardonnay will pair up nicely with this beautiful steak. If you have a preference for sweeter wines, you can try a white Zinfandel to tease your taste buds.
To cut through a ribeye steak’s fat, a luscious, red Cabernet Sauvignon from California or a Tempranillo will pair perfectly with the juiciness of the steak. Similar to the ribeye cut, a sirloin steak served rare requests a Cabernet Sauvignon to balance its flavour; this stunning steak doesn’t require much caramelisation to counterbalance a strong red, but if you prefer a medium-done steak, an exquisite Château Pichon-Longueville from Bordeaux is the perfect fit.
Lamb, Veal, and Venison
With the delicate flavour of lamb, you can select a lighter and more delicate wine to balance the taste of the meat. Lamb absorbs the flavour of sauce very well, so a medium-bodied wine like an Australian Shiraz or a Portuguese Touriga Nacional is ideal.
Veal is a great match with white or rosé: similar to lamb, veal has a gentle flavour that, preserved with its preparation for a delicious meal, takes well to sauce, and pairing it with a lighter red like a Pinot Noir or a Rosé de Sangiovese will lift the dish.
If you enjoy rich, red meat with little fat, you will enjoy a dish of venison with a rustic, medium-bodied red wine. Combining them with venison cuts through the gamey taste, providing a fruitier flavour; a glass of Valpolicella from Italy is the perfect choice for venison.
While pairing your favourite wines with different types of meat can be a bit tricky, a cellar that is well stocked with wine will provide perfect fits for every meal. Understanding how you enjoy your favourite meat dish is the first step to always choosing the right bottle.
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