Winter is the season when you might be considering prime rib, roast tenderloin, or another special beef recipe for a holiday dinner. Or maybe the cold weather has you craving a long-simmering beef stew. And most likely, you’ll be thinking of serving red wine with that beef. But which red? There are definitely some that work better than others, depending on the dish, but the good news is that you have plenty of flexibility. Here’s how to make great matches.
Tannins and protein, a mutual attraction
Red wine tastes good with beef because of the interplay between the tannins in the wine and the protein in the meat. Tannins are compounds found in all red wines, and they come mostly from the grapes’ skins and seeds, as well as from the barrels in which the wine was aged. They give red wine aging potential and are an essential part of a wine’s structure and balance.
By itself, a tannic wine can feel rough and astringent (imagine tea steeped too long). But as soon as tannins become bound to protein, everything changes. A glass of young, tannic Cabernet Sauvignon isn’t the greatest choice to linger over before dinner, but take a sip after a bite of seared filet, and you’ve got a mouthwatering combination.
When serving an older vintage, keep the dish as simple as possible (think roast tenderloin) to avoid overwhelming the wine.