If you’re looking for the ideal food pairing for cabernet sauvignon you don’t have to look very far. Almost any red meat, especially served rare, is going to do the trick.
That said there are different styles of cabernet - powerful new world cabernets from California, Chile and Australia with their intensely flavoured cassis fruit and more restrained elegant cabernets from Bordeaux, often blended with merlot and cabernet franc.
With young cabernets, it helps to have an element of charring or spice to offset the sweetness and tannins. With older, more mellow cabs braised or more subtly sauced, classically European dishes come into their own.
Seasonings that tend to flatter cabernet are garlic, rosemary, mint and porcini (dried mushrooms). Dishes that are cooked in red wine and combinations of meat and cheese (as in a burger) are also successful.
Here are my top six picks:
The obvious one. Especially slightly fattier steaks like ribeye and sirloin, served rare to medium-rare.
A good burger
Which is, after all, simply chopped steak. Generally, though it's the other ingredients that determine the success (or otherwise) of the pairing. At a burger tasting I went to a while back at Palm steakhouse, the winning combination was a Napa Valley Cabernet with the restaurant's Bozzi Burger which was topped with aged gouda, smoky barbecue sauce and crispy fried onions. Better with new world cabernet than Bordeaux which can be a little light.
Beef short ribs and other braised beef dishes
Slow-braised beef - or venison - can be great too especially when cooked in red wine. Fashionable ox cheek dishes are also a good pairing - even a chili con carne: a good match for an inexpensive, jammy cabernet
Roast or grilled lamb
A butterflied leg of lamb or a lamb steak with rosemary is always a winner, especially with red Bordeaux. Add a gratin dauphinoise on the side and you're in clover.
If you’re not a meat-eater, a big juicy grilled Portabello mushroom (or two) with butter and garlic is a great pairing. The intense flavour of dried porcini mushrooms will also make a cab shine.
Cabernet is a good all-rounder for a cheeseboard especially with hard cheeses such as an aged cheddar or gouda.
Blue cheeses like Gorgonzola work well too especially in combination with a steak or a burger. A side of cheesy polenta will also help show off a good cab.
Note this useful tip on sides and seasonings from sommelier Andrea Robinson: “Bitter-edged veggies like broccoli rabe, grilled radicchio and roasted Brussel sprouts are real winners. I also find the more pungent, piney herbs like rosemary basil and thyme really work well to pull out the cedar/eucalyptus elements in these wines.”
- Article by Fiona Beckett -