Long, hotter days, shorter nights – it's summer which means it's officially time to break out the grill. And while we all love barbecuing a rack of ribs or smoking a chicken, nothing beats the staple summer grilling favorite - a succulent steak. Whether you're grilling for two or hosting a barbecue for a couple dozen of your closest friends and family, you'll want a great wine to go with your steak. Fortunately, picking the perfect wine is easy to do. We've outlined a few simple guidelines for you to follow for seamless pairings time after time.
Step one: consider your cut before hitting the wine shop. For a big, juicy steak, you'll want to choose an equally big wine. A high tannin red like Cabernet Sauvignon (or a Bordeaux-style blend), Syrah, or Malbec will be ideal for a marbled cut like ribeye. The fat in the ribeye will soften the tannins of the wine, making the wine less astringent and creating an overall more pleasant experience. Leaner cuts need lighter wines. Top sirloin and strip steak have less fat than your ribeyes, so a low tannin red like Pinot Noir or Grenache make excellent options.
Pairing wine with a grilled steak is one thing, but what if you want to experiment with marinades? The rule to keep in mind here is this: allow the marinade to be your guide.
If you're dosing up your steak with a peppery rub, a peppery wine like Syrah or a GSM (Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre) blend will both complement the marinade while standing up to the flavors on your plate. Just be sure to avoid an overly oaky or high alcohol style. High levels of oak or alcohol emphasize heat and can overwhelm your palate.
Taking some inspiration from the grilled meat masters of Argentina? The classic pairing for a green chimichurri sauce full of parsley, garlic, oil, and vinegar is none other than Malbec. Again, avoid oaked Malbecs as the classic oak flavors can clash with the herbs found in the sauce. Instead, an earthy, slightly herbal Malbec will do the trick.
When whipping up a balsamic marinade, look to Italy for terrific pairing options. Sangiovese should be your first go-to here, as these wines can have similar savory, fruity aromas and flavors. What's more, because Sangiovese has high tannins, you can cook up a fattier cut of steak. Wines like the Sangiovese-based Chianti or Vino Nobile di Montepulciano are also fantastic for an Asian-inspired marinade with soy sauce, garlic, ginger, and a pinch of sugar. These wines share some of the same mouthwatering umami flavors as soy sauce. Continuing with an Asian theme, while we may associate hoisin sauce with duck, it is absolutely phenomenal with grilled steak. That slightly sweet taste works a treat with the rich, meaty flavor of a steak. A young, fruity Merlot will hold up to the steak while also mirroring some of the sweetness found in the hoisin sauce. In short, it's a winning combination.
Of course, you could always keep things simple and marinate your steak in red wine. In this case, serve up a glass of whatever wine you've chosen to use in your marinade. Stick to bigger wines and you won't go wrong.