Published September 11, 2012
It's common knowledge that red meat generally pairs best with red wine. And that rule applies even better to steak, whether braised or barbecued, herb-marinated or smothered in hickory barbecue sauce.
Some people, of course, prefer to drink their favorite Chardonnay with anything and everything, including steak. Yet, a tender top sirloin or dry-aged porterhouse needs to be balanced by the firm tannins and full-bodied mouthfeel that only a thick Cabernet Sauvignon or spicy Syrah can provide.
Our diverse selection of top 10 steak wines includes bottles from Australia and Italy to Paso Robles and the Willamette Valley. Whatever your price range, you're bound to find something apt for a fancy dinner or a backyard BBQ.
Shingleback "Black Bubbles" Sparkling Shiraz
McLaren Vale, Australia
While red wine grapes are often used in sparkling wines, especially in "blanc de noir" Champagnes, the fermenting juice is seldom left in contact with the grape skins long enough to turn a dark red hue. Australia, which makes some of the best Shiraz on the planet, uses the Rhône varietal to make sparkling wine, too. Shingleback's "Black Bubbles" displays a teasing balance of tart and sweet fruit flavors that, alongside a backbone of firm tannins, allow it to pair well with steak hot off the "barbie."
Adelsheim 2010 Ribbon Springs Pinot Noir
Ribbon Ridge, Oregon
Established in 2005, Ribbon Ridge is Oregon's smallest AVA (American Viticultural Area) and is nested within the larger Chehalem Mountains and Willamette Valley AVAs. The 2010 Ribbon Springs Pinot Noir is one of Adelsheim's single vineyard bottlings. An earthy red wine, it is light in color and offers fragrant red berry aromas. The wine's soft tannins would pair well with veal or thin-sliced prime rib.
Rootstock Cellars Cheeseburger Red
Santa Barbara County, California
While beer and burgers may come more readily to mind, this full-bodied red wine is designed for pairing with cheeseburgers and other grilled foods. Composed of 28 per cent Petite Sirah, 44 per cent Barbera and 28 per cent Syrah, Cheeseburger Red features jammy fruit flavors and firm tannins.
Colterenzio 2011 Lagrein
Alto Adige, Italy
The Lagrein grape varietal is native to the Alto Adige (or South Tyrol) region of northern Italy. It produces highly acidic and tannic wines that are not so drinkable on their own, but pair well with red meats like beef and venison. A dry, full-bodied wine, the Colterenzio 2011 Lagrein features ripe blackberry flavors with a hint of dark chocolate and spice.
Niner Wine Estates 2007 Syrah, Bootjack Ranch
Paso Robles, California
Located in the middle of California's large Central Coast wine region, Paso Robles is best known for its red wines, especially those made from Rhône varietals like Syrah. Niner Wine Estates 2007 Syrah, Bootjack Ranch is a dark, inky-colored wine. On the nose, it offers pungent aromas of violet, plum, blackberries and wet stone. In the mouth, this Syrah's smoky and earthy flavors would pair well with the region's famed tri-tip.
Casa de la Ermita 2008 Roble
Roble refers to a wine aged in oak barrels. The Casa de la Ermita 2008 Roble is aged for three months in new French oak before bottling. Composed of 80 per cent Monastrell (Mourvèdre) and 20 per cent Petit Verdot, it features nicely rounded fruit flavors and a touch of spice. Pair it with pork chops, ribs or black pepper steak.
Decoy 2010 Napa Valley Red Wine
Napa Valley, California
Every few years a new sub-appellation is carved out of Napa Valley. Duckhorn Wine Company's Decoy 2010 Napa Valley Red Wine includes grapes from eleven of the region's sixteen AVAs making it a rather representative blend. On the nose, it offers blackberry, blueberry and raspberry aromas with a hint of cinnamon and nutmeg. In the mouth, this Meritage offers fruity and woodsy flavors that allow it to pair well with venison and wild boar steaks.
Arnaldo-Caprai 2005 Sagrantino di Montefalco Collepiano DOCG
Some historians believe that Sagrantino vines were first brought to Umbria by followers of St Francis of Assisi in the thirteenth century. Like those barefoot friars, this Sagrantino di Montefalco displays a certain roughness and rusticity that aging hasn't completely softened. Its aromas are of ripe red fruit, vanilla and spice. The wine's full body, sturdy tannins and somewhat bitter finish make it an excellent companion for osso buco and bone-in ribeye.
Ravenswood 2009 Lodi Old Vine Zinfandel
Many of California's oldest vineyards are planted with Zinfandel — some more than 100 years old. They tend to produce wines with more complex flavors than their younger counterparts. This 2009 Old Vine Zinfandel boasts aromas and flavors of dried currants, plum, blackberry and spice. Its rich flavors and sturdy tannins make this Ravenswood wine an excellent accompaniment to grilled steaks, tri-tip and ribs.
Inglenook 2009 CASK Cabernet Sauvignon
The 1941 vintage of this Cabernet Sauvignon received a perfect score of 100 points from Wine Spectator in 2000. Between those two dates, the historic Inglenook estate has had its share of ups and downs. Now fully restored by film director Francis Ford Coppola, Inglenook is once again making premium wines. Their 2009 CASK Cabernet Sauvignon is a thick, inky-colored wine. In the mouth, it displays rich black fruit flavors with a hint of licorice and clove.
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