Meat: a red wine’s best friend
Updated: Jan 14, 2019
Matt Day Corkscrew Chief Wine Officer explores the symbiotic relationship between wine and meat with fabulous wines and steak kindly provided by MASH steakhouse.
They say diamonds are a girl’s best friend. She wears a diamond and suddenly her eyes are more vivid, her clothes seem more refined - the diamond sparkles, she sparkles. And without the diamond she is …well a bit dull!
BFF #1: Tannins
Many of the world’s finest and most expensive red wines have a similar need for adornment. Tannins are naturally occurring compounds found in many plants and types of wood. Red wine skins used to make red wines red have very high levels of tannins, which naturally leach into the wine and further tannins are added by maturing the wine in oak casks. As a wine matures the tannins precipitate from the wine as sediment, so young wines are more tannic than old wines. Tannin is perceived in the mouth as that mouth puckering feeling – try biting on a grape pip and you will know exactly the feeling!
Although fairly mature a Harlan Estate 2007 (£1050 recommended by Corkscrew as the best new world red in Mash with 99 points) or a Vega Sicilia Unico 1994 (£540 recommended by Corkscrew as the best old world red in Mash with 98 points) without food will taste considerably more astringent and less complex compared to drinking either with a prime Danish Crown Sirloin steak.
BFF #2: Proteins and Fats
When you drink red wine with steak the protein molecules from the meat bind with the tannin molecules from the red wine cancelling out the wine’s astringency and giving it a smooth, voluptuous mouthfeel. Even the roughest plonk tastes markedly better with a hunk of bloody meat – the wisdom of the French peasant prevails. Also tannins break down the fats in the steak where most of the meat’s flavour is found, so as if by magic your wine tastes richer and your steak tastes beefier.
In addition, fats and proteins help to counteract high levels of acidity found particularly in old world wines. Italian grapes are noted for high acidity which makes them horrible without food, but magical when consumed with the right dish – acidity means the wines are good at refreshing the palate and keeping your appetite alive. Gaja Sori San Lorenzo Barbaresco 1999 (£420 recommended by Corkscrew as the best Italian red in Mash with 97 points) made from Nebbiolo grapes is pretty hard work without food, but transformed into liquid silk by an Aberdeen Angus Côte de Boeuf.
BFF #3: Man's best friend
Apart from good taste there is also a major health benefit for combining red wine and meat. Scientists have discovered that the tannins in red wine positively counteract the harmful cholesterol found in red meat. It turns out these tannins contain polyphenols which are powerful antioxidants which prevent harmful cholesterol compounds being absorbed through the gut into the blood stream. So, in a final twist it turns out that red wine is a man’s best friend – well mine anyway!