It's anathema to wine and food matching traditionalists, but Matthieu Longuère MS isn't in the mood to obey 'rules' in the first column of a Decanter.com series with Le Cordon Bleu London.

Don’t be scared of matching red meat with white wine…

Because my Diploma in Wine, Gastronomy and Management students often ask me whether it’s okay to recommend white wine with red meat, I decided to put it to the test last week for our food and wine matching class.

Our Le Cordon Bleu Master Chef prepared the ultimate classic Entrecôte Sauce Bordelaise (as meaty a dish as you can get, in red wine sauce) and we decided to find a white wine that could cope with it.

To set the scene properly, a Bordelaise sauce is a very concentrated red wine sauce with almost caramelised finely chopped shallots and bone marrow.

Because of the slight sweetness and complexity of the sauce, we ruled out very fruity aromatic white wines with fresh, green flavours.

Mature, white Rioja

After trying out a few contenders, the clear winner was a mature, traditional white Rioja – a Bodega R. Lopez de Heredia Viña Tondonia, Reserva Blanco, Rioja 2003 to be precise.

The developed, nutty, honeyed flavour of the wine married perfectly with the rich texture of the dish and the hearty bone marrow.

The Rioja’s still, mouth-watering structure, even after 13 years of ageing, helped to refresh the palate between each bite.

Decanting the white wine is a good idea

The key was the age, not all white wines can mature that gracefully but one can always find some good examples from the Northern Rhône Valley, the Graves in Bordeaux, or from the Hunter valley in Australia, for example. See Decanter.com’s wine reviews section.

Serving this style of wine at cellar temperature – around 12 degrees Celsius – after decanting is often a good idea, as this will help to enhance the flavours and favour a better balance on the palate.

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Try adding acidity to the dish

You can also try to turn the concept around and try to modify a red meat dish to accommodate a white wine.

So, how do you make grilled fillet steak and Pinot Grigio experience an enjoyable one?

The easiest way is to add acidity to the dish so that the increased sharpness will marry with the natural acidity of the wine and prevent the rich proteins overpowering the fruit.

To achieve this, you can add fruits like pomegranates, pink grapefruit segments or just drizzle the resting meat with a good quality vinegar or lemon juice.

My vinegar of choice for this occasion would be sherry vinegar because it is not as sweet as balsamic vinegar and not as sharp as cider vinegar or white wine vinegar.

If the white wine is full-bodied and oaked, the match will be made easier by the wood bringing some element of tannins or bitterness that will marry with the protein of the meat.

The service temperature of the meat will also have a positive influence on the pairing; a cold cut of beef will create less of a contrast to a chilled glass of Chablis.

Enjoy your red meat and white wines, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

*Rioja stockists via Wine-Searcher

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About Matthieu Longuère MS

Matthieu Longuère is a Master Sommelier based at Le Cordon Bleu London, a leading culinary arts, wine and management school.

Sommelier in the UK since 1994, he has won numerous awards and accolades for wine lists in the establishments for which he has worked: Lucknam Park Country House Hotel, Hotel du Vin Bristol and La Trompette.

Since joining Le Cordon Bleu in 2013, he has developed the school’s comprehensive Diploma in Wine, Gastronomy and Management; a unique programme which combines the theory of wine with a strong emphasis on practical learning.

Alongside the full Diploma, he also teaches an array of evening classes which are relaxed, yet studious, making them perfect for beginners as well as the more knowledgeable.

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