Wine and dine on great Irish steaks

 

The cut of steak you choose and the way you like it cooked can influence what wine will best accompany it. Here are a few suggestions . . ., writes JOHN WILSON

THERE ARE FEW things more satisfying in life than a large, juicy steak accompanied by a glass of decent red wine. It is a simple combination, easy to prepare, but one of the very best. To some, it may symbolise the macho caveman, but it is not solely a male interest; there are more subtle versions that will please all.

If you are going to the expense of buying a good steak, try to spend a little more on the wine; the two together can be one of the great food and wine matches, and the better the wine, the better the overall result.

The pairing of red wine and red meat certainly has worldwide appeal; an Australian reaches for his Shiraz, an Argentine a hearty Malbec, and a Tuscan would open a bottle of Chianti to go with his bistecca. All are fairly robust wines, with plenty of body to match the flavours of the steak. The Chianti would typically have some acidity and tannin to provide a contrast to the richness of the meat.

Superquinn wine buyer Richard Moriarty recently conducted some research into the different cuts of steak and the wines to serve with them, as part of a forthcoming promotion in Superquinn stores.

There are a number of things to take into account when selecting a wine; the cut of meat, how well it will be done, how it will be cooked and what will accompany it. If all of that sounds daunting, it doesn’t need to be. Just remember a few basic rules: the more delicate the steak, the lighter the wine. Steaks with more flavour need more powerful wines. If you prefer your meat better done, fruity New World wines are a safer choice; on the other hand, rare meat needs leaner wines with more tannin and acidity. That generally means Europe.

The steak/wine combination works well for a number of reasons. Firstly, the flavours of beef and red wine complement each other so well. Both seem to bring out the best in each other. (There is a strong argument that unadorned roast beef is the finest accompaniment of all to great red wine). In addition, the proteins contained in red meat combine with and reduce the bitter tannins found in red wine. In turn the tannins break down the flavours of the steak. It is a happy marriage where both seem to accentuate the positives in each other.

Moriarty argued for red Burgundy with fillet steak. It might not be the most obvious choice with grilled beef, but the Burgundians are very keen on matching their Charolais Côte de Boeuf with Gevrey-Chambertin. Pinot Noir is lighter, and does not have much in the way of tannins, but it will have good acidity, ideal with the less robust fillet.

A sirloin has plenty of flavour, and served rare needs wine with a bit of bite. A Bordeaux, or any other wine from south-west France is ideal, although a New World Cabernet would also be worth trying. Rib-eye is fattier, and tends to be cooked longer, so a richer wine with ripe fruit, such as a Châteauneuf-du-Pape, an Australian Shiraz, a Malbec from Argentina or a Zinfandel is called for. Any barbecued steak, with its charred caramelised flavours, probably fits into this category too.

Onions or roasted root vegetables served with the steak add a sweet touch which can suggest a New World red. Moriarty even came up with a suggestion for a white wine – Gavi. I am not an absolutist in this or anything to do with food and wine matching. I reckon a glass of just about any wine is improved by a plate of food, and the reverse is equally true. Feel free to experiment.

However, with my steak I would always reach for a bottle of something red.

BOTTLES OF THE WEEK

Rully, Château De Rully 2009, 13%, €12, down from €17.49in the sale Delicate, soft, smooth summer fruits, with a touch of spice and a refreshing acidity. This is worth trying out with your fillet steak. Stockist: Superquinn

Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2011, Jean Demont 13.5%, €13, down from €25.99I wouldn’t for a minute pay €26 for this, but at half-price it is pretty good value, not unlike a good Côtes du Rhône Villages. Forward, rounded, juicy ripe fruits with no rough tannins, this would go nicely with a medium rare sirloin or even better, a rib-eye. Stockist: Superquinn

Rosso di Montalcino 2010, Canalicchio, Tuscany, 14%, €23-€24A next-door neighbour of Chianti, Montalcino produces the incredibly tannic and highly-priced Brunello di Montalcino. It’s baby brother, Rosso di Montalcino can be more approachable and, at times, better value. The Canalicchio is a great version, rich and powerful, with good acidity and well-integrated tannins. Seriously good wine and perfect with a rare striploin steak. Stockists: Sheridans Cheesemongers in Galway, Carnaross, Co Meath and Dublin; Mitchell Son, CHQ Glasthule; The Corkscrew, Chatham Street

Château Saransot-Dupré, Cru Bourgeois, Listrac 2008, 13%, €19.50Refined, elegant Bordeaux, with ripe blackcurrant fruits and a good firm tannic finish. Try it with a rare sirloin or possibly a rib-eye. If you like your steak medium or well done, I would switch to a New World Cabernet or maybe a Malbec from Argentina. Stockists: 64wine, Glasthule; Sweeney’s, Glasnevin; Lilac Wines, Fairview; Blackrock Cellars: Jus de vine, Portmarnock; La Touché Wines, Greystones; Ennis’s, South Circular Road.