How to pair white wine with red meat

Pairing white wine

We all know that red wines go with red meat, white wines go with chicken and fish… don’t they? But what if you don’t like red wine? Does this mean you should go thirsty with your steak? Parched with your goat curry? Not at all. Today we are throwing the rule book out and looking at how to pair white wine with red meat.

A new trend in wine pairing

Now is the perfect time to get up to speed with a new trend in wine and food pairing: white wine with red meat.

But no, that can’t be, I hear you protest; everyone knows white wine doesn’t go with red meat? Admittedly, it is quite hard to get used to the idea that there may be another way. But I promise I haven’t gone mad; top-end restaurants in New York and London have already been recommending this unconventional match for several years. Slowly but surely, the concept that pairing white wine with red meat is a good thing is gaining ground.

Pairing white wine with red meat

It is true that many white wines cannot stand up to red meat. However, it is not universally true – and you red wine lovers out there should sit up and take note, because you are missing out!

Wine pairing is all about analysing the flavours of the food and the wine and picking sympathetic partners. So in truth, a well balanced white wine should work well with any decent cut of meat. Here are my suggestions for those who prefer a white wine over red, or for those red wine drinkers who are open to new ideas:

White wines with beef

Lightly oaked chardonnays suit grilled beef very well, particularly those with acidity that will cut through the fat and richness of steak. Try Bruce Jack’s Reserve Chardonnay with beef at your next barbecue, you’ll be pleasantly surprised. An intense sauvignon blanc such as The Crossings Sauvignon Blanc can also be paired with grilled meats. But beware, if there is too much char on your barbecued steak, it can be very difficult to find a good wine match.

Full-bodied and fruity white wines can also complement steak; try a chenin blanc such as South Africa’s Painted Wolf The Den Chenin Blanc. And if you like your steak well seasoned, you could try a zesty, refreshing pinot grigio with it; I recommend Sun Goddess Pinot Grigio Ramato from Italy, which has a wonderful coppery colour and sweet tannins from skin contact with the grapes.

A Burgundy-style chardonnay such as Louis Latour Bourgogne Chardonnay will complement rare and medium rare steaks beautifully. This wine is also made with some skin contact, imparting tannins and structure to it, which allows it to stand up to the richness and texture of the meat.

Dry rieslings work well with fatty beef cuts, and the more intense and complex the wine, the better. Try Charles & Charles Riesling, which lovingly balances taut dryness with a touch of sweet fruit and minerality.

And I love champagne with beef, especially leaner cuts; the minerality and fine bubbles enhance the flavour of beef and the acidity cleanses your palate. I’d recommend you try Nicolas Feuillatte Réserve Exclusive Brut, which combines pinot noir, pinot meunier and chardonnay for a refined champagne and an excellent match for beef; or La Vieille Ferme Réserve Brut, a chardonnay-based sparkling wine displaying aromas of hazelnuts and fresh baked brioche to complement the caramelised natural sugars in the meat.

White wines with lamb, mutton and goat

Lamb and mutton are very rich, so there are only a few white wines that will pair well with them. With roasted or grilled lamb or mutton, try an oaked chardonnay such as the Parker Coonawarra Series Chardonnay which has the complexity and tannins to cut through the fat.

For a lamb or goat curry or tagine you may prefer a fruity, tart wine such as pinot grigio or riesling; for example, the Fantinel Borgo Tesis Pinot Grigio or the Hesketh Bunnelope Riesling Traminer Sauvignon Blanc. And a gewurztraminer such as the Undurraga Gewurztraminer will work if there’s not too much salt in the dish.

Finding your own white wine with red meat pairings

When we pair wine with meat we’re looking for a partnership between the character of the wine and the richness and texture of the meat. In wine tasting we’re always highlighting the individual aromas and flavours of the wine; you can of course put your nose and tongue to the test in the same way when eating meat.

For example, think about a juicy steak with all the caramelisation on the outside… As well as the seasoning you’ve applied, there will be sweeter notes from the caramelised sugars and sometimes nutty flavours to go with the deep savouriness. So a good wine to pair with your steak would have similar characteristics of deep, round texture to match the savouriness; complex, complimentary flavours and aromas; and good acidity to stand up to the fattiness of the meat.

But as a general rule, if you want a white wine to go with red meat, choose a full-bodied one with plenty of acidity. And remember, whether a particular wine goes with a particular food is to some extent subjective anyway. Don’t be afraid to experiment – you might find a combination which is truly magical!