February 1, 2011
For centuries, meat and wine have been a synonym for food & wine pairings throughout the world. It is a well-known fact that red wines and various cuts of meat are perfect together in a meal and that pairing possibilities are endless
depending on the special characteristics of each type of meat and wine.
Below we will look for some rules or guidelines to achieve a perfect pairing.
Meats can be divided in two groups: lean meats with less than 10% fat content such as veal, rabbit, chicken, turkey and horsemeat and fatty meats, with a minimum of 10% fat content such as lamb, pork, duck and beef and also the most widely consumed meats worldwide.
Why should we necessarily pair these meats with red wine? Reds have something that is absent in white wines: tannins. These are astringent and bitter natural substances produced by the maceration of wine with grape skins and the aging process in oak barrels. Given the phenolic composition of tannins, they should be paired with meats rich in protein and fat, foods that so-to-speak “resist” the strength of tannins. But not all meats are the same, so we will try to explain which ones are better and how to combine them with the correct wine.
If we had to choose the healthiest of meats, without doubt many people would select chicken or turkey. These birds have a very healthy, balanced meat with a significant presence of vitamin B3 and are a very good source of protein. The yellower the skin, the tastier the meat. The meat’s pink color is due to the animals’ lower workload and very rapid growth, and also to their rapid movements. Due to the reduced presence of iron, zinc and fat, the recommendation is to pair chicken or turkey with wines that have a delicate structure, such as Merlot or Pinot Noir. However, a fruity Cabernet Sauvignon without barrel aging is also a very good partner for these meats.
Beef is the most consumed meat in the world. Its color is due to the animals’ repetitive, slow movements which produce a lot of fiber (muscle) needed to endure heavy loads. Among the many different cuts of beef, beef fillet is the tastiest and most prestigious cut, as it is located far from the most important muscle groups supporting the animal’s weight.
An animal that has worked more will lead to fibrous and richly-colored meat. The higher the amount of fat deposits among muscle fibers the tastier the meat. Independently of the cut of meat, beef will always have a high protein, fat, mineral, zinc and iron content and it follows that the wine to pair it with should be full-bodied in order to withstand beef’s intensity. The recommendation then is a wine with strong tannins and good structure. If the wine is also complex with a long finish, has several layers of aromas and flavors and good acidity the meat & wine pairing will be perfect.
Cabernet Sauvignon certainly reunites all these characteristics. Syrah is another variety that meets the above requirements but with its sweeter tannins and lower acidity one must be careful when combining it with dishes that include cream sauces or stews with highly concentrated flavors. Another alternative is to pair beef with a blend based on Cabernet Sauvignon, such as Casillero del Diablo Reserva Privada.
Lamb is another widely consumed meat in the world. Its fat content is usually higher than that of beef, so animals are generally slaughtered under a year old so the meat has a milder flavor, pink color and greater tenderness. For all lamb dishes the best wine pairing is Syrah because of its strong structure. Cabernet Sauvignon also goes very well lamb, especially if there it is blended with another variety.
Pork meat is very important in some regions. There are many ways of preparing pork, and its diversity means the animal can be consumed almost completely. In traditional Spanish cuisine, ears or feet can be a real treat for some people. Hams, ribs and smoked meats are the most common preparations. In any case, pork’s fat content is low and protein content even lower, so the wines recommended, depending on the type of meat and accompanying foods are Merlot or Carmenere as long as they are not too tannic. If something sweet is included in the dish Carmenere is the variety to consider. For example, recent studies suggest that cholesterol levels are lower for pork than for beef, due to the change in pigs’ food habits and the fact that fat in pigs is located peripherally and not among muscle fibers as in beef or lamb.
Now that you have learned these tips, the best thing to do is to uncork one of Casillero del Diablo’s red varieties and enjoy it with friends and family.