• Matt Day

Corkscrew on: Malbec with steak

Updated: Jan 14, 2019

Any red wine will taste better, softer and more complex when you pair it with anything rich in protein. Particularly proteins in meat and cheese can soften the drying tannins and astringent acidity in red wines. Some wines seem at first too austere or one dimensional, but are miraculously transformed when paired with food. This is why a French peasant wouldn’t dream of drinking his everyday (rough) red without food.


The Argentines have done a great job of marketing #Malbec as the ultimate #steak wine and thanks to its meat-friendly reputation and easy-going style nearly 30 million bottles of Argentine Malbec were sold in the UK last year. So, if you are feeling carnivorous tonight should Argentine Malbec be your first choice and what is a good pairing anyway?


A successful pairing is where neither the food or the wine are overpowered by the other, where the acidity of the wine helps to cut through the richness of the food and ultimately you get a magical moment where the wine combines with the food and you get a wonderful taste – the whole (pairing) is far greater than the sum of its parts. Get it right and you can elevate the taste to another level, but get it wrong and the flavour clash can be quite spectacular!


It would be a sweeping generalisation to say that Old World is best when it comes to successful pairing, so let me put it more tactfully! Hot climate wines (like Argentine Malbec and Australian Shiraz) with riper fruit, softer tannins, higher alcohol and lower acidity are perfect ‘drinking’ wines, but not as successful with food. Colder climate wines with more restraint, less overt flavours, lower alcohol and higher acidity tend to be too austere alone, but somehow come alive in the presence of food. A classic example of this is - drink it without food and it is a tough, hateful thing, but pair it with game, meat or Parmesan and it tastes like heaven on earth.


In addition wines that are very strong in alcohol will overpower nearly all dishes and an excess of alcohol makes all wines one dimensional (high alcohol gives a very soft and sweet mouthfeel). They will also give you a much worse hangover!


So as a food wine Argentine Malbec - low acidity, high alcohol - unticks all the boxes! So what should you be drinking to enhance your steak experience? If your steak is grilled why not try a smokey Syrah from the northern Rhone e.g. Crozes-Hermitage or a savoury Chianti from Tuscany. If the steak is pan-fried a lush Cabernet blend from Bordeaux or California could be ideal, but try a few different combinations to see which you prefer. And if you end up back with Argentine Malbec then so be it!


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