The Best Cabernet Pairings for Different Types of Steak
Around the world, where Cabernet Sauvignon is grown, there’s also a signature treatment for a hunk of meat. Start your global exploration here.
Central Coast, California
Cabernet here ranges from lean to lush, depending how high up it’s grown. Spicy, herbal and wood notes are common and in opposition to the fruit-forward expressions elsewhere in the state.
Drink it with: Tri-tip
With all that spicy woodiness, these wines are tailor-made for this triangular sirloin-tip smoked over oak. The signature barbecue style of the Central Coast and Central Valley is meaty and lean to match the wine in flavor intensity and body.
Cabernet is emerging as the state’s signature grape, grown in warm, dry eastern vineyards. Here, it’s ripe and lush with black fruit and berries, as well as scorched earth and mineral notes like flint and graphite.
Drink it with: Elk
Elk from Washington and neighboring Montana tastes like beef, but richer and sweeter and doesn’t have much gaminess. A local Cab will complement it in the same way a berry-based sauce or glaze would.
The best word to describe Argentine Cab is rich. These wines are full-bodied and jam-packed with luscious dark fruits. They also often carry hints of mint and some vanilla from oak-aging.
Drink it with: Skirt steak and chimichurri
Chimichurri is the country’s signature sauce. Made from parsley, oregano, chile flakes and plenty of garlic and vinegar, it’s spicy and bold, to lift both the savory, grilled meat and the opulent wine.
Whether in Bordeaux-style blends or on its own, Cabernet here tends to be bursting with black and red berries with bold tannins. It’s often aged in American oak, which adds some rounded spice, vanilla and tobacco.
Drink it with: Chacarero
This sandwich is made with thin-sliced skirt or hanger steak and decked out with green beans, tomatoes and chile peppers, pickled or fresh. The vegetal notes are a good match for the elegant wine, and the chile heat will pick up the spice.
Drink it with: Kangaroo
The continent’s signature marsupial has very lean meat that’s a little sweet and a little gamy. If you like lamb with mint jelly, you’ll appreciate how the wine’s herbaceous notes lift the flavor of the kangaroo.
South African Cabernet drinks ripe and juicy, but often with a distinct black pepper flavor that gives it a savory edge, plus spice and wood, along with the grape’s calling card black fruits. The wines typically exhibit a beautiful balance between Old and New World stylings.
Drink it with: Braai
More than a dish, braai is an act and event, a mixed grill with plenty of meat cooked over a wood fire. Spicy lamb and sausage take on smoky flavors that complement the wine’s pepper and cedar notes.
In the grape’s home, it’s typically blended with other grapes and aged in French oak. The results are ageworthy and full bodied yet elegant, carrying hints of baking spice from the oak aging to complement black fruit flavors.
Drink it with: Entrecôte Bordelaise
This boneless ribeye carries a richness to match the wine, but it’s sliced thin so it won’t overwhelm the restrained sip. What makes this dish special is a rich butter sauce made with Bordeaux wine.
Cabernet Sauvignon grown here creates the body behind super Tuscan wines. It tends to have more red fruit than black, but with the grape’s signature roundness, tannin structure and a smoky green pepper note that’s unique to the region.
Drink it with: Bollito Misto
Translated as “mixed boil,” this stew consists of various tough cuts of beef (and sometimes veal and poultry) with plenty of garlic and chile. Like the wine, it’s comforting and hearty with an enticing spice level.
Jump Straight to a Recipe
Entrecôte is a boneless ribeye steak that’s cut thin for quick cooking. You can purchase a 1½-inch-thick steak and halve it into thinner steaks yourself, or ask your butcher to do it. Bordelaise sauce is a classic that’s often made with bone marrow to thicken it to a gravy-like consistency. This recipe is thickened instead with beurre manié, a mixture of butter and flour that adds almost as much richness as marrow, but with ingredients you’re likely to have on hand.
- 1 cup red wine
- 2 shallots, minced
- 2 sprigs fresh thyme
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
- 1 cup beef stock
- Salt and pepper
- 4 (8-ounce, ¾-inch-thick) entrecôte steaks
In small saucepan, combine wine, shallots and thyme. Bring to simmer over medium-low heat and continue simmering until wine is reduced by half.
Meanwhile, in small bowl or ramekin, mash together 1 tablespoon of butter and flour with fork or back of spoon until thoroughly integrated.
Once wine is reduced, add beef stock and simmer until reduced by about one third. Pinch off small ball of flour mixture and whisk it into sauce. Repeat, leaving about 30 seconds between additions, until sauce is thick enough to coat back of spoon. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
In large, heavy skillet, preferably cast iron, heat remaining 1 tablespoon of butter over medium-high heat. Season steaks with salt and pepper and add to pan (you may need to work in two batches). Increase heat to high. Cook until steak’s browned on one side, 3–4 minutes. Turn over. Cook until browned on other side, another 3–4 minutes. Internal temperature should be 125˚F, or medium rare, but if not, flip again and cook until desired doneness. Remove from pan and let sit for 5–10 minutes. Slice across grain and top with sauce. Serves 4.
Château la Tonnelle 2016 Haut-Médoc; $17, 91 points. This stylish wine displays good balance between ripe black-currant fruits and tannins. With 60% Cabernet Sauvignon in the blend, the wine has a good structure that will allow it to age. Drink from 2022. Editors’ Choice. –Roger Voss
Courtesy Richard Hyman, Owner and Executive Chef, Fenix, Lodi, CA
Richard Hyman named his new Lodi restaurant Fenix, a nod to the mythical bird that rises from the ashes. The name pays tribute to Hyman’s own comeback after suffering serious burns at his previous restaurant. At this modern, eclectic eatery marking new beginnings, the chef serves up dishes that are bold and creative, but not fussy. He prepares this steak Argentinian style, with vivid colors and strong flavors.
- 2 (12-ounce) skirt steaks
- 1 bunch cilantro, stems removed
- 1 bunch flat parsley, stems removed
- ¼ cup chopped fresh oregano leaves
- ¼ cup chopped sage leaves
- ¼ cup chopped fresh rosemary leaves
- 2 shallots, peeled and chopped
- 12 cloves garlic, chopped
- Juice of 2 lemons
- 2 tablespoons red-wine vinegar
- 1 jalapeño, seeded and chopped
- 1½ cups good-quality olive oil
- Salt, to taste
- Black pepper, to taste
If necessary, peel membrane and trim sinew from skirt steak. Set aside.
Put all other ingredients into blender. Pulse until slightly coarse. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Place steaks in deep dish. Pour one-third of chimichurri on steaks, and rub into surface. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, preferably overnight.
Heat charcoal grill. When coals are blazing, grill steaks 4 minutes per side (medium rare). Remove from grill. Spoon chimichurri over steaks and serve. Serves 2
Michael David 2015 Inkblot Petit Verdot (Lodi); $35, 91 points. Intense and lavishly fruity, this wine is ripe and concentrated in flavor, with a rich—almost thick—feel. Tons of blackberry, black cherry and dark chocolate flavors are layered between soft tannins for a luxurious texture and lingering finish. —Jim Gordon
Steak cooks quickly (although these fibrous cuts often benefit from marinating for a while), is intensely satisfying and rarely needs more than a handful of salad greens to turn it into a complete meal—in other words, it’s the perfect dinner. If you’re looking to add a starch, try corn with the chimichurri, polenta with the pepperoncini marinade or rice with the fajita rub.
- 1½ pounds trimmed flank or skirt steak
Position oven rack 6 inches from broiler. Turn broiler on high.
Place steak on rimmed, foil-lined baking sheet. Broil until sizzling and deeply golden brown, about 5 minutes. Flip and continue broiling until medium-rare to medium (130–135°F), about 5 minutes. Let rest 10 minutes. Slice thinly against grain. Top with accumulated juices or pan drippings and serve. Serves 4.
This staple of Argentinian cuisine is updated with tomatillos and cilantro, for a new way to spice up and transform an ordinary steak. This delicious sauce can also be used on a variety of other meats, or even as a salad dressing, to reinvent an everyday meal.
- 4 tomatillos
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 cup packed cilantro leaves
- 1 teaspoon white vinegar
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
- 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil.
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper.
Husk, core and coarsely chop tomatillos. In food processor, combine tomatillos with coarsely chopped cloves garlic, cilantro leaves, white vinegar, kosher salt and red pepper flakes (optional). Pulse until evenly chopped. While pulsing, drizzle in tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil.
Rub steak with extra-virgin olive oil. Season with kosher salt and black pepper. Cook steak according to instructions. Top with chimichurri and serve.
“While it would be easy to pair this dish with Malbec or Cabernet Sauvignon, let’s do something a little more fun,” says Anna-Christina Cabrales, beverage director and sommelier for New York City’s Fifty. She recommends the Broc Cellars 2014 Cabernet Franc from Santa Barbara. “I think of Cabernet Franc for this pairing to accentuate the green herbaceous and vegetal tones of the steak,” says Cabrales. This particular one, she says, “has good energy, vibrant acidity and minerality—all the right elements to elevate the spice and body of this dish.”
- 1Entrecôte Bordelaise
- 2Grilled Skirt Steak with Chimichurri
- 3Simple Broiled Flank or Skirt Steak Recipe
- 4Tomatillo & Cilantro Chimichurri