Cuts and Cabernet

We all know that Cabernet Sauvignon and red meat pair nicely together, a fairly safe bet when ordering at a restaurant or firing up the BBQ at home.  But did you know how dramatically your pairing can can be altered depending on the style of Cab Sauv and the cut of beef you select?


How we analyze a wine is similar to how we can look at a cut of beef. There are many factors that determine the taste and quality of your meat. Not only can you choose between a sirloin and a filet, the breed of cow, where the animal was raised and what it is fed, are all determining factors in taste and quality. Visit the Artisan Beef Institute to view their beef tasting guide and for more neat info!

beef guide cab guide

We describe wine by using frames of reference and comparisons to share our experiences with others. We will describe a wine’s body by identifying the heft, broodiness, elegance, or suppleness. Flavour descriptors ranging from fruity, earthy, like summer in a glass, and pencil shaving, to toasted oats and Gramma’s brownies. It is our shared experiences of food, seasons, textures, colours that allow us to talk to each other about wine.

The same goes for beef! When we want to describe a steak, we can paint a picture with our sight, smell, and of course, taste. The texture of steak can compare to the body of a wine: juicy, melt in your mouth, chewy, fatty, etc. Now if we take what we know about analyzing wine and apply the same thought process to our steak, we can determine not only a good wine pairing, but a GREAT Cabernet and steak match.

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At an informative and engaging evening at Rouge in Calgary this past week, WineCollective was treated to a night exploring Canadian beef with Jackson Family Wines. The goal was to help promote the knowledge and understanding of how to best enjoy some of our most favourite things, beef and wine!

Rouge is a premier restaurant located in Inglewood, Calgary. With magnificent gardens, we recommend booking a table before the patio season comes to an end! Chef Paul Rogalski and Chef Michael Allemeier highlighted Canadian beef using different preparations and flavours,  paired with Jackson Family Wines.

Smoked brisket sticky bun.

To better understand how to create a perfect pairing, we were served 3 different Cabernet Sauvignon and 3 different cuts of beef. We sampled each of the wines on its own and compared the differences.

From left to right: Atalon, Stonestreet, Chateu Lassegue

Wine A Atalon Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley: Dark ruby core that is fairly consistent in colour to the rim, with slight purple edges. The nose is fruit forward with blackberry, plums, black cherry and a light cedar spice. On the palate there is more red fruit, slightly tart with supple tannins and moderate acidity.

Wine B Stonestreet Monument, Alexander Valley: Deeper in colour, ruby-purple. Initial notes of new leather and tree sap, minerality followed by currant and cherry with an herbal spice. The palate showed chewier tannins than the first wine, and mouth-filling fruit and cocoa.

Wine C Chateau Lassegue, St Emilion: Garnet core with slight brick colouring around the edges. The fruit takes a back seat on the nose to  smoke, wet earth, mushroom and leather. The palate showed more earth and moss with black tea tannins and briar patch, choke cherries.

From left to right: Grain fed, wet aged filet; Grain fed, wet aged ribeye; Grain fed dry aged ribeye.

Chefs prepared the three cuts of steak with no seasoning, cooked to medium rare on a propane grill (propane or cast iron will give you the most neutral influence on the meat). All cuts were grain fed, a wet aged filet and ribeye, as well as a dry aged ribeye. Wet aging is more common and imparts a more subtle flavour to the meat. While dry aged beef gives a more distinctive character to the meat.

After tasting the wine and steak separately, we were guided through a pairing of each wine with a taste of each steak. The differences between each combination were very apparent!

Wine A: The Atalon Cab was too soft for both the ribeye. The steaks’ fat overwhelmed the palate and diminished the fruits of the wine. Most notably, the wet aged ribeye left a greasy mouth feel that the wine could not cut through. Hands down, the best pairing was with the filet. The wine was not overwhelmed by the leaner filet, and even accentuated more fruit and minerality in the wine.

Wine B: The Stonestreet’s tannins were too aggressive for the filet, but were balanced by the wet aged ribeye. The structure and body of the the dry aged ribeye was an acceptable match, but the wine’s bold flavours over-powered the steak.

Wine C: The Chateau Lassegue could have been paired with any of the 3 steaks, but it best complimented the dry aged ribeye. Both the steak and the wine had similar flavour profiles of mushroom, forest, wood, and earth. The age of the wine gave more subtle fruit notes that in it’s youth would have been better matched with the wet aged ribeye or the filet

Stripping away the seasoning, rubs, marinades and sauces allows you to experience the structure, texture and flavours of the meat. There is no right or wrong, every palate is different, but treating your steak with the same attention you give to your wine will allow you an opportunity to maximize the enjoyment of your meal.

We thought this was a fun experiment, and encourage you to visit your butcher and see what pairings you discover. The Canadian Beef website has recipes, tips, and usefull info about understanding beef grades and terminology. Let us know what your favourite Cab and Canadian beef pairing is and why! If you would like some help selecting a wine for your favourite cut, drop us a line or visit us at Highfield by WineCollective, we would be delighted to help!

Join WineCollective today and receive $15 off your first shipment using the coupon code “CDNBEEF15”.  All of our featured wines come with tasting cards full of information and tasting notes, including food pairing suggestions!