Beef and wine: Styles to try this Christmas
- Cabernet Sauvignon
- Grenache or ‘GSM’ blends
A superb roast beef can come in many shapes and sizes, but it makes a great, hearty alternative to turkey. And you’ll be spoilt for choice, because there are so many different cuts.
It is fairly easy to match with red wine without too much effort, although more precise pairings depend on three key points: cut, cooking time and accompaniments.
White wine lovers should not despair, however, as Matthieu Longuère MS argues here.
Leaner cuts, such as sirloin, fillet, silverside and topside, can lack the richness of flavour that comes from marbling.
Yet they make up for this with a tender texture, and so the best wines to reach for are medium-bodied reds that don’t overpower the flavour. Strong acidity will help to cut through the texture of the meat. You could head to the Sangiovese kingdom of Brunello di Montalcino here, with a bit of bottle age.
Fattier cuts of beef, such as rump, fore rib and shin, have a deeper flavour than leaner cuts.
This is classic Cabernet Sauvignon territory and well integrated wines will have tannins to help dissolve the fats, acidity to lift the dish and lots of black fruit flavours that can stand up to the richness of the meat.
Think about matching the intensity of the wine to how you prefer your beef to be cooked; albeit that is sometimes easier said than done if every family member has a particular preference.
For those who enjoy beer at the rarer end of the spectrum, a rich, juicy wine will work well. You could opt for a Grenache-based wine or a Syrah/Shiraz-Grenache blend here; the southern Rhône and South Australia being the immediate go-to options.
Languedoc-Roussillon has some excellent-value options in the ‘GSM’ arena – wine-speak for Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre – and you could look to the Terrasses du Larzac or Pic-St-Loup for wines with plenty of fruit and a lovely ripe and balanced character that will match the succulence and tenderness of rare meat.
A juicy Malbec from Argentina – or one of the more modern styles from France’s Cahors area – could also be a fantastic match here.
Decanter World Wine Awards judge Patricio Tapia previously suggested looking towards Altamira and Gualtallary in the Uco Valley for a fresher style of Argentinian Malbec to drink with steak.
For medium to well-done beef, consider red wines that have more of a savoury character and spicy flavours to reflect the additional roasting time, as well as a bigger structure to match the firmer texture of the meat.
You can slightly up the tannin and oak level, here, but remember that integration and balance is everything.
Accompaniments and sauces
Christmas normally involves a broad mix of flavours at the dinner table, all competing for your attention. That’s why wines with freshness and acidity are prized here.
That said, many of the classic sauces with beef hold pretty strong flavour themselves. Whether you are serving mustard, horseradish, blue cheese or peppercorn sauce, then it’s worth considering a bolder, riper red that won’t be put off by those strong flavours.
A red wine sauce or jus demands a red with ripe, sweet fruit, while a traditional gravy has more savoury elements to it.
This article was originally published in 2018. Editing in December 2019 by Chris Mercer.
Wine suggestions for beef this Christmas: