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A Starter Guide to Wine and Steak Pairing

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Whether you’ve tossed old-fashioned wine-pairing dogma out the window, or you like to follow some old-school rules about what you pour with your dinner, there is a balance between drinking what you like and finding a great pair. This is especially true when it comes to choosing a wine to serve with bold and fatty steak. A little thought into the proper duo can make a big difference.

To start, look for three things: acid to refresh the palate, body to match the intensity of the beef and tannins for a little magic. Tannins help cleanse the mouth of tongue-coating fats, while fat has a softening effect on coarse tannins.

But there is a lot of room for experimentation. We asked industry experts for their suggestions for the best wines to pair with steak, based on the meat’s preparation and cut or preferred style of wine. Then, our food editor matched their suggestions with highly rated bottles he loves to open alongside his steak dinner.

ribeye steak with tomato salad
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Steak and Wine Pairings

The Best Overall Wine for Steak

It’s hard to argue against a well-made Napa Cab as the ideal partner for all types of steak. “There’s a reason most steakhouses have Bible-sized wine lists disproportionately filled with Napa Cabernet Sauvignon,” says Vanessa Price, wine director and managing partner of Mavericks in Montauk, New York, and co-author of Big Macs & Burgundy, Wine Pairings for the Real World. “Few wines deliver the kind of high-alcohol and tannic body blow required to tangle with such a full-flavored protein.”

Price adds that a glass of Napa Cabernet Sauvignon can help the flavors linger for longer. “The buttery-black sear on a good steak also mirrors the toast of the oak barrels Napa Cabs are aged in, allowing the char and the tannin to merge while the wine’s considerable fruits dart through,” she says.topt

Chappellet 2019 Pritchard Hill Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley)

An extremely concentrated and well-structured wine, it offers flinty, toasty, tarry aromas, dark chocolate, black currant and espresso flavors on a thick blanket of fine-grained tannins that give a very firm mouthfeel. The wine has the depth and structure to age and improve for decades, as well as the track record to prove it. 98 Points  Jim Gordon

$325 Wine.com

Best Wine for a New York Strip Steak

Sometimes known as sirloin, top loin, Delmonico steak or Kansas City strip, it’s an incredibly versatile cut that can take the flavors of a unique style of Napa Cab.

“Most will recognize the New York strip as the Broadway-sized intersection of texture, flavor and fat that made it so famous,” says Price. “One sub-AVA announces itself as the strip’s most natural counterpart: St. Helena AVA from The Valley floor. [It’s] a powerful expression of Jolly Rancher fruits, like cranberry and raspberry, with a savory jamminess and violet-laced cedar core that drops a big, red Times Square ball of flavor on any New York strip.”

Hall 2018 Coeur Cabernet Sauvignon (St. Helena)

From the heart of the Napa Valley, where the producer is based, this wine captures the full-bodied concentration that is possible in a warm vintage in a warm spot. It offers dusty sage and sweet tobacco accents amid ripe tannin, oak and blackberry fruit. 92 Points  —Virginie Boone

$75 Wine.com

Best Wine for a Ribeye Steak

Ribeye is the richest cut of steak, lusciously marbled with fat throughout. This is where you can really play with the interaction between tannins and beef fat. Price recommends Napa’s hillside AVAs, like Diamond Mountain.

“These wines are so rugged and burly, they almost seem chewy, with a wet-dark earthiness,” she says. “If you aren’t careful, they might be just brawny enough to make you grab that meat by the bone.”

It can be even more fun to experiment with some lesser-known high-tannin wines, like Tannat, Petit Verdot, Mourvedre, Sagrantino or Touriga Nacional. These rarely have as worthy a culinary opponent as a ribeye steak. Uruguay consumes the second most beef per capita of any country in the world, so wine from a steak-loving, wine-growing area feels natural. After all, there are few Uruguayan asados without bottles of Tannat on the table.

Bodega Garzón 2019 Petit Clos Block #212 Tannat (Maldonado)

This well-structured wine offers aromas of green bell pepper and plum accented by cinnamon. It’s concentrated and has fine-grained tannins alongside balancing acidity. Flavors of blueberry and plum blend with hints of black olive on the elegant palate. It finishes long with notes of oak spice. 94 Points  —Jesica Vargas

$ Varies Wine Searcher

Best Italian Wine for Steak

While classic Italian reds like Barolo, Barbaresco, Brunello and Amarone can pair beautifully with a juicy cut of meat, Price suggests heading to Tuscany for a superior choice. She encourages pouring a Super Tuscan, the colloquial name for wines that operate outside the rules of such Tuscany DOCGs as Chianti and Brunello. These wines most often blend Sangiovese with Bordeaux varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot.

“Super Tuscan styles can vary, but what they all share is a unique broadside of freshness and power, and a juiciness that snaps to attention with a powerful piece of protein,” Price says. “The wine’s guaranteed acidic streak and beefy tannins from all the thick-skinned grapes work overtime to provide an Old World pairing akin to its New World brethren, with interestingly nuanced differences.”

Marchesi Antinori 2019 Tignanello Red (Toscana)

The nose on the 2019 vintage of this Super Tuscan benchmark is soft and dense, with dark macerated berries in tension with green and black pepper, a hint of hibiscus or a cranberry tea, followed by tanned leather, wet soil and moss under a tree. The palate echoes the nose but adds more decadent notes of plum, fig and chocolate mousse, with tannins that feel like a good pair of loafers—supportive, but comfortable. It’s long and harmonious. 95 Points  —Danielle Callegari

$158 Vivino

WE Recommend

Zaccagnini

Montepulciano

An Italian classic, Cantina Zaccagnini Montepulciano d’Abruzzo is lush and rich with a dry, smooth and perfectly balanced finish. The perfect pairing for steak, pizza, burgers, and pasta. The tralcetto (stick) on every Zaccagnini bottle is an actual grapevine cutting from the vineyards. The stick is tied by hand on to each bottle, and represents the connection between the wine and the land.

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Best French Wine for Steak

While it may make sense to pour a Cabernet Sauvignon when going French, Price suggests another Bordeaux favorite.

“Consider a Merlot, particularly one from Pomerol,” says Price, referring to the right bank Bordeaux appellation where Merlot shows its well-known plushness and considerable tannic structure. “Pomerol produces Merlot that smells like so many things at once it can leave you guessing for days.” Think black plum, black cherry and boysenberry with notes of violet, tobacco leaf and mint.

“Depending on the producer, Pomerol ranges from medium-bodied and supple, to big-bodied and bold,” she says. “But every last one of its iterations is a cuddle puddle of lust for steak au poivre.”

Vieux Château Certan 2020 La Gravette de Certan (Pomerol)

Produced from young vines, this second wine is juicy, perfumed with a dominance of Merlot. Its balance is just right, ripe and juicy, with acidity and structure in all the right places. The black fruits show sweetness as well as richness. Drink the wine from 2026. 93 Points  —Roger Voss

$ Varies Wine Searcher
Top Sirloin BBQ Steaks with Lemon, Butter and Garlic Skewered Lobster Tails
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Best Wine for Steak and Lobster

Though pairing red wine with seafood isn’t off the table, there are white wine varieties bold enough to stand up to this classic surf and turf.

“Warm-climate Chardonnay that’s been barrel-aged or barrel-fermented is intense enough to match flavorful red meat as well as the naturally sweet lobster,” says Josh Dunson, beverage director for Ocean Prime, whose 18 locations specialize in luxe steak and seafood offerings. “Also, Pinot Noir has minimal tannins compared to heavier reds, but it’s still enough to work with red meat without overpowering the lobster.”

Pro-tip: When ordering surf and turf, go for a leaner steak, like filet mignon. “Leaner cuts such as filet mignon are great pairings for these ‘crossover’ wines that pair well with both meat and seafood,” says Dunson.

Deep Down 2021 Chardonnay (Marlborough)

This is an elegant Chardonnay from first sniff to long finish. Aromas of white grapefruit, fresh ginger and pear are backed by a gentle line of creamy, toasty barrel influence. The palate shows love, texture, length and drive. The supportive oak frames the lithe citrus fruit. It’s food-friendly, characterful and highly crowd-pleasing. Drink now. 93 Points  —Christina Pickard

$ Varies Wine Searcher

Best Rosé Wine for Steak

When it comes to pouring a pink-hued wine with a fatty steak, Dunson suggests opting for Champagne. “The effervescence cuts the fat and also refreshes the palate, while the red and citrus fruit match the intensity of the beef flavors,” he says “The yeasty bread component gives complexity and complementary flavors. The florals round out the experience and can match all cuts of steak because of the diverse flavors and complex structure of the wine.” For more tips on pairing rosé with steak, see our guide to steak and rosé.

Charles Heidsieck 2008 Rosé Millésimé Brut (Champagne)

At this age, the wine shows its maturity and richness. Dominated by a toasty, nutty character, the Champagne is underpinned by acidity and the merest hints of apple and red fruits. The wine is very ready to drink. 95 Points  —R.V.

$198 Vivino

Best Wine for Steak Tartare

Raw steak is naturally lighter in intensity and many tartare recipes include tart, contrasting flavors and deeply savory herbs, Dunson says. “Rosé is the best of both white and red worlds,” he notes. “It has red and citrus fruit profiles, lifted with florals and often a mineral or stony baseline of flavor. They are also moderate in body to match the body of the tartare, and have enough acidity to complement the interesting flavors.”

Press Gang 2021 Savanna Rhea Rosé of Grenache (Ballard Canyon)

An orange shade of pink in this glass, this rosé kicks off with lovely aromas of strawberry and cherry sorbet on the nose alongside a chalky, metallic minerality. The palate sizzles with endless energy, as zesty red fruit and tangerine-peel flavors ride a chalky texture. 93 Points  —Matt Kettmann

$ Varies Wine Searcher

Best Pinot Noir for Steak

If you enjoy a lighter red, Pinot Noir can be a great option to complement a steak, while sticking to your personal preferences.

“I would probably head to Patagonia, which is the southernmost wine-producing region in the Americas, and its arid valleys make some of the best Pinot Noir in the world,” Price says. “Its extreme winters and cool summer nights make for a prolonged growing season that’s particularly well suited for Pinot. Bright and high toned enough for dense protein, it’s also notable for its earthy undercurrents, which a nice mushroom accompaniment would lap right up.”

Otronia 2018 45° Rugientes Pinot Noir (Patagonia)

From the southernmost wine region in Argentina comes this well-balanced Pinot Noir. After aeration the nose opens up and gives aromas of berries and nutmeg. The palate is broad, showing red fruit and herbs backed by firm tannins and lively acidity. It has a medium finish with delicious notes of baking spices. This is fresh and promising. 90 Points  —J.V.

$ Varies Wine Searcher
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Best White Wine for Steak

“I recognize that the concept of white wine and beef may seem suspect to some, but experiencing the smoky, buttery, indulgently rich flavors of a Meursault with a filet mignon or Porterhouse will quickly dispel any notions of incompatibility,” Price says. “And what makes this pairing race full throttle is the teeming acidity that has a similar effect on the fat in steak as the tannins in red wine. It turns the volume up in your palate and then washes you clean for the next bite.”

Xavier Monnot 2019 Les Chevalières (Meursault)

Notes of smoke, toast and dill introduce this broad-shouldered Chardonnay. Matured in 15% to 20% French oak, it has piercing lemon and tangerine flavors layered in smoky, savory oak accents but maintains a vitality and freshness throughout. The wine needs time to meld but should approach peak from 2024 and improve through 2035. 93 Points  —Anna Lee C. Iijima

$ Varies Wine Searcher

Best Sweet Wine for Steak

Sweet wines have a surprising amount of body that can give an unexpected harmony with steak. “An Auslese Riesling from Germany offers decadent stone fruit character and enhanced silky texture from residual sugar, but it’s all in balance,” says Dunson. It’s especially good when the steak comes with tart or spicy accompaniments.

Alternatively, Price suggests a demi-sec Champagne. “Their bright acidity brings balance and lift, making the style surprisingly versatile,” she says. “And due to the autolytic character—think toasty, yeasty [and] brioche notes—and sea-salt minerality, I’d baste my favorite cut with butter to tie all the sweet and savory goodness together.”

Joh. Jos. Prüm 2020 Auslese Graacher Himmelreich Riesling (Mosel)

Concentrated, yet very detailed example, with dried mango, white peach and light melon notes playing off the vivid structure. The acidity cuts through, making this feel like there is only a little bit of sweetness, but the mouthwatering finish and body set the record. Submerged minerality should emerge with cellaring. Best after 2029. 94 Points  —Aleks Zecevic

$140 Wine.com

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All products featured here are independently selected by our team, which is comprised of experienced writers and wine tasters and overseen by editorial professionals at Wine Enthusiast headquarters. All ratings and reviews are performed blind in a controlled setting and reflect the parameters of our 100-point scale. Wine Enthusiast does not accept payment to conduct any product review, though we may earn a commission on purchases made through links on this site. Prices were accurate at the time of publication.

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