Beef

Jukes Wine And Food Beef

There are so many different beef dishes, so, luckily, the rules are not too tricky. Reds, predictably, are the order of the day, but it is the size and shape of them (the wines, not the cows) that determine just how accurate the match will be. Roast beef (or en croûte/beef Wellington) served up for Sunday lunch deserves a modicum of respect. When you gather around the dining room table do, by all means, push the boat out. It is at times like these when old-fashioned gentleman’s red Bordeaux comes into its own. Don’t ask me why, but classy wines such as red Bordeaux, Bandol, erudite northern Rhônes – Hermitage, Crozes-Hermitage, Cornas, St-Joseph or Côte-Rôtie – or even Italy’s answer to an Aston Martin DB5, the Super-Tuscans are simply magnificent with this king of beef dishes. As you’d expect, not one of these wines is remotely affordable (nor is the car, mind you). They are all special occasion wines, so if you are looking to shave a few pounds off your credit card bill, I would recommend heading to the top Cabernets from Australia’s Margaret River (Western Australia) or Coonawarra (South Australia), or Napa Valley in California. You’ve guessed it, these are again fairly dear, but at least these reds will give you the richness and complexity that you are craving. If you are on a strict budget, then don’t change regions, just buy cleverly – not all wines from Bordeaux are exorbitantly priced. Try the less famous sub-regions like Côtes de Castillon, Bourg, Blaye and Francs, and go for a good vintage (decent recent years are 2010, 2012, 2015, 2016 and 2018). These wines can hit the spot. Hearty Southern Rhône or Languedoc reds would also do very well. Most Aussie (try Clare Valley, Barossa Valley and McLaren Vale in particular), South African (Stellenbosch), Chilean and Argentinean Cabernets or South Australian Cab/Shiraz blends around the ten-fifteen-mark offer charm, complexity and competence, especially if you stick to my recommendations. It is at this price point that the New World leads the pack. But even if you drop down to around an eight or nine quid you can still have fun, just remember to stick to hotter climate wines, as red Bordeaux and red Rhônes at this price doesn’t exist anymore. One question you must ask yourself is – ‘how do you like your beef cooked?’ If you are a keen carnivore and a fan of rare beef, you can safely drink younger, more tannic red wines, as the harder tannins balance perfectly with juicy, rare meat, slicing through the flesh and making your mouth water. If, however, you like your beef well done, then choose an older wine with smoother, more harmonious tannins. Stews, casseroles and meat pies need richer, more structured reds, particularly if meaty, stock-rich gravy is involved. Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah (Shiraz), Pinotage, Piemontese (northern Italian) reds, Zinfandel and Malbec are but a few of the superb, hunky, robust grapes to go for. Look for wines from South Africa, Australia, California and Argentina. Southern Rhônes like Gigondas, Lirac, Cairanne, Rasteau or Vacqueyras will also be superb, as will Provençal or Languedoc reds made from a similar blend of swarthy red grapes. Portuguese wines are worth considering with rich beef dishes – the red wines from the Alentejo, Dão and the Douro Valley are still woefully under-priced mightily impressive. Cahors in southwest France also deserves a mention, as it is a skilful beef partner. Bollito Misto, the Italian stew made from beef and just about everything else you could find in your larder, demands the presence of local wines – Teroldego and Marzemino, from Trentino in northern Italy, would be a quirky and yet inspirational place to kick off, as would smart Valpolicella, Barbera d’Asti or Alba and Dolcetto d’Alba. Boeuf bourguignon, as the name suggests, usually pressgangs the help of red Burgundy. But please don’t cook with anything expensive – save your money for the ‘drinking’ wine and cook with a simple generic bottle (Beaujolais or Bourgogne Rouge). Steak and kidney pie loves manly, rustic reds with grippy, palate-crunching acidity and sturdy tannins. These wines slice through the gravy and often-chewy kidneys – Madiran and Cahors from France, Malbec from Argentina and New World war-horses, like South African Pinotage and Syrah, and Aussie Shiraz also enjoy this challenge. Cottage pie, with carrot, celery, onions and minced beef rarely require anything more challenging than an inexpensive, fun-lovin’ red. You could even try your hand with Eastern Europe (although don’t expect me to road-test this for you), or southern Italy or Sicily (a safer bet) and then go crazy and buy two bottles. A heroic Beef stroganoff also demands rusticity in its dancing partner, so gather together some southern Rhônes (Sablet, Valréas, Cairanne or Vacqueyras); even a straight Côtes-du-Rhône from the right Domaine can be a joy. Hungarian goulash would be wonderfully authentic if a Hungarian red wine joined it. Nuff said! But if you want to play a straighter bat, head to Rioja, Navarra, La Mancha or Toro (Spain) or Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon. Straight steak has a more direct and controlled meaty flavour than a rich stew, so finer wines can be dragged out of the cellar (or local wine merchant). Bathe in Chianti, Brunello di Montalcino, Ribera del Duero, Californian Merlot, Zin or Cab, top-end Cru Beaujolais (still only a fifteen quid max!), Crozes-Hermitage, St-Joseph (both Rhônes), and South African, Argentinean, cool-climate Australian and New Zealand’s Gimblett Gravels Cabernet Sauvignons or Shirazes. Watch out that you don’t OD on Béarnaise sauce, which, though great with a mouthful of steak, can clog up the taste buds (and the waistband) a little. With steak au poivre, the pungent, pulverised peppercorns make their presence known in every mouthful, so look for meaty (and pepper-flavoured) wines like northern Rhône reds (Syrah) or their cousins from further afield – Shiraz from Australia, Chile or South Africa. Burgers, heaven in a bun (homemade of course, not mechanically reclaimed at the golden arches!), often served with ketchup, bacon, cheese or relish (or all of the above), crave fruity reds like Italian Dolcetto or Barbera, Spanish Garnacha, young Rioja Crianza, juicy Californian Zinfandel, South African Pinotage, Chilean or South African Merlot, Australian Petit Verdot (hard to find, but dead funky) or Cab/Shiraz blends. Once again, go for younger wines if you like your burger rare, and older, more mellow wines if you dwell at the well-done end of the spectrum. Chilli con carne is a difficult dish to match with wine. As with burgers, it is necessary to search for fruitier styles like Aussie Merlot, or Negroamaro or Nero d’Avola from southern Italy and Sicily – I quite like chilling them a touch, too. Steak tartare is a strange one, as I’m still not sure whether I like it (a side issue), but I must admit it works terrifically well with very light reds and rosés – Tavel (southern Rhône) and other Grenache-based rosés (try Spain) are perfect, as are snooty Pinot Noirs like Sancerre red or rosé. If you fancy splashing out, then rosé Champagne is the ultimate combo (although people are bound to think you’re a show-off). Whatever you do, make sure you go easy on the capers if they are served alongside – they are mini hand grenades on the palate, spoiling a seamless vinous performance. Cold, rare roast beef salad and other cold beef dishes enjoy the company of fresh, light reds with low tannins – Beaujolais, Valpolicella, red Loires (either Cabernet Franc or Gamay) or Argentinean Tempranillo or Bonarda would all work. Pinot Noir is also a treat with this style of dish – Burgundy, Martinborough, Marlborough or Central Otago (all NZ), Tasmania, Yarra Valley and Mornington Peninsula (all Oz). The only occasion when you are allowed to break the red-wine-with-beef rule (of course there must be one) is with carpaccio (raw/rare) or bresaola (air-dried). These wafer-thin-sliced beef dishes can handle whites. Any dry, apéritif-style Italian white or light Montepulciano-style red would be fantastico.