Last month we opined on what wines go well with a traditional Thanksgiving Day feast. This time we’re going to talk about pairings with dry aged beef. Most everybody knows the conventional pairing of some sort of a big, bold red wine to go with steak, but a dry-aged steak calls for a more focused approach.
Here, we are talking about dry-aged steaks, the kind you see through the glass in a high-end steakhouse or custom butcher shop. We don’t hold ourselves out as beef experts, but if you are fortunate enough to enjoy this special treat, we want you to enjoy it with a wine selection that enhances the experience. As with our posts on wine collection, our goal is to help customers and collectors to find the best ways to appreciate and enhance their wine experience.
Aging beef (and other meats as well) changes the aroma, color, flavor, texture and complexity of the meat, and we must think about these changes when we choose a wine to go with them. We will be looking for a wine that compliments the meat, does not overpower it and is not dominated by it.
The first question is the length of time the steak has been aged. You can often find different options from 1 week to a couple months and even beyond, and yes, this matters for the wine.
To a certain extent, dry aging for steaks is like cellar aging for wine. The aging needs to take place in a controlled environment — cool (around 35 degrees) and humid 80-85%. Not all that far from a wine cellar.
As the meat ages, it loses moisture, and as a result, loses weight. It still has all of the flavor, all of the nutrients, all of the essence of the meat, just in a more concentrated form.
The texture will be more tender – you might even be able to cut it with a fork, and the flavors become more complex and nuanced. The longer the aging, the more dramatic the changes. Common descriptors are “very beefy” “buttered popcorn”, earthy, nutty, blue cheese-like and sometimes gamey after longer periods of aging.
I’ve seen wines of all types being recommended to pair with aged beef, but here is the way I would look at it. If at a restaurant that is offering aged beef, I would be expecting to get quality advice from my server, and also the sommelier. Start by asking how long the beef is aged. For two weeks or less, I would be looking for a hearty red with some good backbone, but not necessarily aged or terribly complex.
For mid-range aging (2 – 4 weeks), a full-bodied red such as a Spanish Priorat, an Argentine Malbec, an Italian Brunello or a Napa Cab would likely pair well.
For the extensively aged steak, I would go with a classic red with deep, rich color, evolved complexity and somewhat muted tannins. Maybe a mountain grown Napa cab from Lokoya or an Italian Super Tuscan such as a Sassicaia or a Tignanello, with 10-20 years of cellaring behind it.
Of course there will be those that would disagree with anything or everything above, as taste is subjective, but at least if you consider what’s been suggested here, we’re pretty sure you can get close to the right mark.