Steak and Cabernet?

There are many tips out there trying to make pairing easy, though many only seem to add to the confusion, making people feel like they are breaking rules they don't understand. The only simple tip that I offer is the phrase: What grows together, goes together, which I explained in last week's post. This week, I want to get more specific and explain the logic behind a classic food and wine pairing: steak and potatoes with Cabernet Sauvignon.

This pairing works because this dish shares many similarities to a good Cabernet. The first similarity is the fatty, heavy nature of the food matches the heavy, powerful feel of the wine. There are also some shared flavors, as many steak and potato dishes use herbs like rosemary and thyme, which overlap with a classic green herb flavor in Cabernet. Finally, a Cabernet Sauvignon is oftentimes incredibly tannic (it dries out your mouth). Tannins bind with fats, so if you drink it with a fatty steak, the wine feels more velvety and less austere.

In order to pair wines with food, you don't need to think through all of those different levels in order to make a good fit. I bring it up because I find it helpful to understand the underlying logic of food pairings as I pick my bottle for dinner. Wines that have similar flavors or a similar weight to the food, almost always work well on the table.

At the end of the day, drink what you enjoy with food that you enjoy, even if that means breaking a few rules. However, wine and food interact with one another and sometimes the perfect match can be magical.