What wine with steak?

lori316August 23, 2008

First post here.

I'm going to a friend's for dinner tonight and I offered to bring the wine (or any other drink). Then I found out we're having steak on the grill. I have a problem that red wine gives me a terrible headache. Any suggestions on what to bring? It should be a pretty casual night, so it doesn't have to be anything too fancy.

Thanks for the help.

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There aren't many white wines that will go well with grilled steak (or rose wines, for that matter). If red wine gives you a headache, it might be the sulfites. Try to find a lighter red wine without sulfites. A good wine store would be able to guide you.

    Bookmark   August 23, 2008 at 2:07PM
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wild_rose_of_texas(z8b TX)

This may be too late to be of help, since it is early evening now...

Sometimes you can get a great Beaujolais that will do nicely with steak. To my palate, there is nothing better than a young cabernet sauvignon with a ribeye.

Many "experts" say it is the sulfites, rather than the tannins, that cause headaches. (I've recently been diagnosed with Migraines, so this was depressing news to me!) There are very few organic wines around yet, although I think they will be showing up more and more, as conscientious vintners find a market for them. When organics are more accessable we may be able to test this theory and hopefully you won't have a headache from those!

Two small suggestions:

1. If you want to try to impress your host or hostess with the traditional 'red with beef' selection, go ahead with a bottle or three of something you feel will be enjoyed by your crowd, and only sip lightly yourself, focusing more on your meal, and perhaps your water goblet.

2. You could select a more robust white - there are a few richer chardonnays and even viogniers that are reputed to be smooth and sumptuous enough to carry a hearty meal well.
But remember that whites have those sulfites, too. Tannins in much less concentration might help you out.

Whatever you drink, I hope you have a lovely evening!!!


    Bookmark   August 23, 2008 at 8:04PM
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Obviously way too late but I hope you had a good one. So many reds that work - grilled steak is the easiest to pair with wine. If your wine is tannic, say like a younger cab, syrah, merlot, etc., the blackened bits of the steak which are quite bitter will make the tannins of the wine less bitter. That's why people match cabs, etc., with steak.

But in Argentina they drink malbec with their steak. You can find some malbecs for under $10. Or you can have a good Spanish red.

As far as sulfites - all wine has sulfur. It comes with the grapes. There is no evidence around that it causes headaches - that is a myth. People do get headaches from the alcohol however! And there may be histamines or other compounds that cause headaches, but this is not entirely understood at this point. Sulfites are also in pickles, most condiments, and many other foods, and there are more of them in some sweet whites than in reds.

Whether a wine is organic or not has no bearing on our reaction. It's unfortunate that anyone gets headaches from wine, but it's fairly clear that it is not common to all red wine. So I would encourage anyone to try plenty of wine and find some that doesn't cause ill effects.

    Bookmark   August 24, 2008 at 1:49AM
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I don't know what I was thinking when I said dinner was last night. It's tonight.

Thanks to your help, I'm armed with more knowledge as I head to the liquor store. I will give red another chance. Maybe I've always just had too much ;)

    Bookmark   August 24, 2008 at 2:18PM
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Here is some more info on sulfites.

Wild Rose - don't know if you're still reading, but I didn't mean to sound snotty.

I am aware of no difference between headache attacks from organic vs non-organic wine. I sell both and I drink both and they seem the same to me!

Tannins come mainly from the skins, some also from seeds and stems, and some also from oak if the wine is put into barrels. I don't know why those would cause headaches. Of course, we don't know all that much about exactly what causes migraines anyway, so if you discover that something consistently brings them on, it's smart to avoid it.

viognier is rarely rich enough to hold up to a steak, although it has a beautiful fragrance. If the chardonnay is made in a full-bodied style, has gone thru malolactic fermentation, and has been put in barrels, it will be a bigger wine than otherwise, but probably not as good as a red for grilled meat.

But don't forget that in Germany they have traditionally grown very few red grapes and those that they do grow tend to make lighter-bodied wine. What do they drink with their venison and pork and sausage?

OK, beer.

But in addition, they make wonderful white wines. Riesling and pork work really well. Maybe not steak, but don't overlook Riesling as a companion to your dinner.

Here is a link that might be useful: Sulfites and wine, UC Davis

    Bookmark   September 26, 2008 at 2:50PM
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wild_rose_of_texas(z8b TX)

I did not think you were "snotty" at all. But I still maintain that the "red with meat" ideal is a very good guideline (and most of us agree at some point in our experiences with wine and dining,); however, there are good choices that can make nice pairings that are unexpected, and we should never count something out just because it doesn't agree with the usual way of doing things.

That said, I am learning to appreciate why certain wines, cheeses, and types of meals are paired in menus. And I have also learned that a type wine that was trendy and terrible back in the late 70's is now actually a favorite... is the wine different, or is the drinker? Or is it that I am enjoying a better vintage, a better wine methodology for the same grapes?

Who knows? My point is, if I had not kept an open mind and given it a try now, thirty years later, I would have missed out on a great wine discovery!


    Bookmark   October 23, 2008 at 5:23PM
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It's interesting about the trendy wines in the 70s. I think that it's because the wines are much much better. In the 70s Americans were buying a lot of riesling, mostly cheap stuff that might even have been sweetened. Some really well known vineyards had their names used on what was pretty much plonk, and even today haven't recovered their reputations. The rieslings were things like Blue Nun, Black Cat, Liebfraumilch, etc.

And then in Austria, a few people actually added a small amount of essentially antifreeze to make their wines a touch sweeter. They claim that the amounts were so small as to pose no harm, and very few people did it, but it pretty much destroyed their wine industry until recently.

And in Italy, they were making horrible Chianti for mass markets and eventually decided to tighten up their regulations for what could be called Chianti. The Chianti Classico area did the same. The Brunello people did the same. Today those wines are really nice.

And of course, the US wine industry was reborn in California. Lancers had pretty much killed the market for rose, as it was so bad and the trend for it passed. But in CA, they had all kinds of old zinfandel vines and in making a rose one year, Sutter Home had a stuck fermentation but they bottled and sold the wine anyhow, calling it a "blush" instead of a rose. It became its own fad, but in the process saved a lot of old vines. That wine was pretty bad- lots of residual sugar and pretty simple, but today around the world rose is once again respected and every country is producing good to great ones.

To your point - winemaking world wide is MUCH better than it was in the 70s and there are many many many more wineries and wines to choose from. That completely changes the calculation when it comes to what you're having with dinner. In the Pacific Northwest they popularized pinot noir with salmon and that was only possible because they are actually making pinot noir there now, which they weren't really doing in the 60s and 70s, at least not to the same extent and at the same quality levels. There are now so many wines available to everyone from everywhere that "what wine with steak" can really become an endless discussion.

Red with meat is a most excellent guideline and I like red wine so it's no problem to follow that one. On the other hand, I'm going to a dinner next week and we're going to have Chablis but they decided to make steak. Not my first choice, but what the heck. It's more important to enjoy the wine and the food and the company.


    Bookmark   October 24, 2008 at 1:41PM
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