Red meat with red wine. That’s the classic rule, they say. It’s true that a perfectly grilled and seasoned New York strip is heaven with a robust Napa Cabernet. However, it is possible to find that beautiful balance of flavors in a white wine alongside that serious cut of meat. Sometimes it can be rewarding to stray away from convention and enjoy the unexpected.
As food and wine culture evolve, so do palates and expectations. Gastronomy is moving from traditional food and wine pairings to a modern era where daring choices are executed with sassy confidence. Dishes like beef tongue carpaccio with pickled ramps (wild spring onions) and a glass of orange wine is becoming the norm in urban culinary hubs. In addition to cooking up trouble with traditionalists, this new wave of culinary geniuses has gained a gleeful, wide-eyed, optimistic following ready to ask, “What will they think of next?” Sometimes audacity can be met with resistance. But, finding the right balance in daring choices can even bring the harshest critics to their knees.
However daring, not all white wines are destined for a harmonious pairing with red meat. The wine must possess that leader-of-the-pack mentality that is a step above the rest. A minerally, fruit-forward Pinot Grigio just won’t work with something like Lamb á la Bordelaise. The rich texture of the Bordelaise and the luxurious tenderness of lamb will wipe out the Pinot Grigio like an antique fishing boat in an Atlantic hurricane. These heartier dishes need a vessel made of steel.
There are a handful of white wines that are suitable for the challenge. Montrachet, a Grand Cru AOP in Côte de Beaune is just the right applicant. Known for its elegant, rich, vanilla and orchard fruit flavors, the first sip is sure to send your tongue diving into a pile of soft, goose feather pillows. This opulent wine has the fearlessness to stand up to anything in its way. Paired with a tender, perfectly grilled medium rare filet mignon with truffle mashed potatoes, this may be everything you’re looking for when it’s time to indulge.
For the casual affair, there are plenty of dignified white wines that still have every bit of determination as white Burgundy, just at a third of the price. Backyard barbecues with grilled steaks and smoked pork warrant a cold beverage. Should the beer fountain run dry, a hearty alternative is a slightly, but not overly-oaked, California Chardonnay. Toasty, ripe melon and pineapple notes can match the smoked meat flavor and cool down any heat at the same time. This pairing will have your palate catching the perfect wave while California dreamin’. Sonoma Coast and Santa Barbara County Chardonnays have chameleon-like qualities that are approachable and fun whether dressed up for steak night or down for a neighborhood barbecue.
Sémillon, a grape prominently found in Bordeaux and usually blended with Sauvignon Blanc, displays incredible versatility. The grape is used to make the dessert wine Sauternes and can also be used to make crisp, minerally white Bordeaux. But great Sémillon isn’t solely limited to France, it also shines in the land down under.
Australian Sémillon from Margaret River and South Australia can be high in acid, but as it ages it morphs into honey, brioche and cantaloupe flavors – especially with oak aging. The complexity of this versatile grape unfolds in your mouth like a flower blooming in the spring sun. These wines even possess the tenacity and strength to hold up to the aforementioned Lamb á la Bordelaise.
Raising the stakes with these daring pairings can have you riding the wave of your own culinary revolution. Changing the way you think about food and wine pairings can turn rough waters into smooth sailing. White wine with red meat. Don’t knock it until you try it.