Gaucho steak and Malbec masterclass

Not only does the Gaucho restaurant group have the largest and most comprehensive Argentinian winelist outside the country itself – more than 200 bins – but selling seven tonnes of beef a week makes it pretty savvy in that field as well.

Gaucho wine director Phil Crozier and ‘beef guru’ Ryan Hattingh joined forces to give attendees at Decanter’s Taste of Argentina event a 15-minute expert tasting tutorial on four cuts of grass-fed, wet-aged Aberdeen Angus beef as well as their perfect matches with four different Malbecs – the grape Argentina has made its own.

Using Phil as the ‘cow model’, Ryan showed where various cuts of beef were found on the beast, as well as the actual pieces themselves, before explaining their taste and fat content. Phil then piped in with a description of the relevant wine match, which the gathered crowd could then enjoy with a perfectly cooked morsel of steak.

The delicate fillet (called lomo in Argentina) has only 4% fat and is a tender cut, but can be lacking in flavour. Phil explained its subtleness made it a hard wine to match, but the sweet cherry-berry fruit and fine grip of Luigi Bosca, Malbec Reserva 2007 was an ideal choice.

The sirloin (chorizo) is a succulent cut with 8% fat which many love for the layer of crackling on the top which adds to the flavour. Phil matched this with the Gaucho’s best-selling Malbec: the Terrazas de los Andes, Reserva 2007, whose soft nose and juicy texture highlighted the richness of the meat.

The rib eye (ancho) is often called the meat-lover’s steak. Its 14% fat, which gives it a wonderful sweet flavour and rich texture, means it needs a wine with both grip and ultra-juicy fruit, so cool-climate, high-altitude wines are ideal. Phil recommended the Finca Sophenia, Reserva Malbec 2008 from grapes grown at 1,200m above sea level – a delicious match.

Finally, the rump (cuadril) – the beefiest of all the cuts, as well as the leanest with only 2% fat. It can be fibrous, but its livery taste means it can take a big wine, like the unoaked Mauricio Lorca, Opalto Malbec 2006. Its pure, sweet raspberry fruit and streak of stoney minerality was a perfect partner to the complex gamey steak.