As the weather heats up, so too does our desire to spend more time outside. And that can only mean one thing: it’s time to fire up the grill! Is there anything better than a perfectly ‘cued cut of meat? How about one paired with an equally perfect glass of wine? Read on for our 10 tried-and-true tips worthy of every Fire Master when it comes to pairing wine with all that meat you already love to grill at home.
Photos courtesy of Getty Images and Carnivor Wine.
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Start With a Flavour Profile
Planning is the name of the game when it comes to pairing a spectacular glass of wine with a perfectly grilled piece of meat. That means your best bet is to think about what you’re about to create before you actually, well you know – create it. Are you cooking delicate lamb chops, a thick steak, gamey bison, a meaty burger? What is the flavour profile of the meat in question, and how can you imagine it tasting on your tongue? Now imagine what other tastes would pair well with that flavour, and those are the notes you’re going to want in your wine. Naturally, this will require a little taste-testing of the vino in question first.
Not all Cuts are the Same - Pairing Meats and Wine
Not all bottles of wine are the same, and not all cuts of meat are created equal. Fattier cuts of steak like filet mignon or porterhouse scream to be paired with a bold red that is high in tannins (naturally occurring compounds in wine), like a Cabernet Sauvignon, while leaner cuts like sir-loin tip or eye of round are better paired with medium or light reds that have more acidity (that tart and sour flavour).
Choosing the Best Wine For Steaks and Burgers
Impromptu BBQs are one of the best parts of summer. With warmer weather finally here, now’s the time to stock up on some bottles of Carnivor’s California Cabernet Sauvignon for those last-minute al fresco dinner parties. This rich wine pairs perfectly with juicy steaks and burgers. Elevate your next cookout with these garlicky Carnivor Cabernet Sauvignon mushroom and Gruyere burgers.
Pair Flavour with Fruit
On the topic of steak, when you’re pairing flavourful cuts like ribeye, flat iron or hanger, reach for a bottle of red that boasts something called “fruit forward” flavours. Basically that just means there’s a fruity flavour in the wine that you should be able to taste on the tip of your tongue, but the combo is a match made in meat-eater heaven.
Kick Things Off With a Marinade
If you truly want to play up that wine-meat combo, consider splashing a little of your drinking wine into your pre-grill marinade (all good marinades require four things: acid, fat, spice and herbs or aromatics). Using a bit of red wine as your acid will help the flavours soak into your cut long before you actually throw it on the grill, but the tannins will also help to break down the meat and give it an even more tender flavour.
The Best Wine Pairing for Lamb
Lamb is often one of the most overlooked cuts of meat. Available in almost every grocery store, lamb’s rich and smoky flavour profile makes even the easiest of recipes feel like a special feast. If you’re new to cooking with this lean protein, start with an easy, crowd-pleasing dish like these lamb burgers with goat cheese and wine caramelized onions. (Pro tip: We suggest a robust Carnivor Australian Shiraz to caramelize the onions.)
Balance Out a Char or Smoke with the Right BBQ Wine
Just as the rareness of a cut will affect your bottle selection, so too will the exterior cook. If there’s a good char on the meat, then reach for a fruitier red like a Zinfandel to add a bit of sweetness and balance out the bitterness of the char. Or if you’re adding some smoke to your cut, consider reaching for a red with a slightly smoky undertone.
Sauces Are Your Friend
What would a grilled rack of lamb be without that accompanying mint sauce? Steak au Poivre would really just be another steak without that creamy pepper concoction that makes it next-level. Do you love a blue-cheese crust? What about some simple jus? A salty gravy, perhaps? When you’re grilling up your next parcel of meat from the store or butcher, be sure to consider the flavours in any accompanying sauce when selecting a wine to go with it. And if you’re so inclined, tip a little of your chosen bottle into the sauce itself to further highlight the fruity, smoky, or peppery flavours of the wine, creating a well-rounded experience.
Game Meat and Wine are a Perfect Match
Game meat is underrated, but a fine cut of venison, elk or duck on the grill is always even better with a good glass of red. Like beef, consider the fat content of the meat in question before reaching for a bottle. Venison is rich and meaty, so go for something with earthier flavours. Duck is fattier of course, so a bolder with fruity undertones would do the trick, and elk is slight-ly leaner than venison so reach for a lighter bottle of red.
Always Go for Balance
At the end of the day, most people have their own personal preferences when it comes to wine and meat. So long as you try to balance the flavours of what you’re cooking and aim to even out those tastes with the “profile” of the wine (what the bottle says it’s supposed to taste like), odds are you’re going to do okay. And remember that practice makes perfect: there’s a whole summer ahead of us, which means you’ve got plenty of days for grilling up those meaty cuts (while sipping to your heart’s content) in store.