Transition to Autumn With a Big Steak and a Big Red Wine

If you’ve been drinking mostly chilled white wines for the past few months to help beat the summer heat, it’s now what I like to call “transition time.”

Just as the Labor Day weekend marks the unofficial end of summer for many people, it’s also the unofficial end of the grilling season.

That means one final (or nearly so) opportunity to grill a nice, thick, juicy steak.

Filet mignon, anyone?

The two most common ways to pair food and wine are:

  1. The flavor of the wine with the dominant flavor of the food (often the sauce, if one is used).
  2. The weight of the wine with the weight of the food.

Filet mignon is a big, weighty type of food, and that calls for an equally big wine to pair with it. The reason the pairing works is that the wine’s tannins essentially bind to the proteins of the meat, and that results in a softer flavor. That’s why a big wine works with filet mignon, but it overwhelms light fare such as white fish.

So what is the best type of wine to serve with your Labor Day weekend steak? There are several options, but the two that will make for a truly memorable meal are Barolo and Cabernet Sauvignon.

Barolo has been called the most prestigious expression of the Nebbiolo grape. Its home is the village of the same name, located in the Piemonte region of Italy. All of the best Italian steakhouses are well stocked with Barolo choices.

Cabernet Sauvignon, of course, is considered the king of the red wine grapes in France and America (Bordeaux and Napa Valley, specifically). Keep in mind that Cabernet is one of several grapes used to craft the exquisite red cuvees of Bordeaux, whereas many Napa Valley wineries produce 100% varietal renditions of Cabernet. That means the “bigger” Cabs, more often than not, hail from Napa.

If you miss out on the opportunity to nosh on a big steak and sip a big wine this weekend, take solace in the knowledge that there will be many opportunities in the fall months ahead to enjoy big, robust red wines.

Every seasonal transition multiplies the wine-drinking choices as we get reacquainted with dishes that may have been on the “back burner” for months.

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Posted in Editor's Journal, Food and Wine Pairings/Recipes
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