Cabernet Sauvignon is a full-bodied red wine packed with tannin and pairs best with meaty dishes like steak, venison stew, roast beef, ostrich, squab, roasted lamb and duck.
With aged Cabernet Sauvignon, the tannins are softer, making them more appropriate for leaner cuts of meat like beef tenderloin or meaty fishes such as tuna, grilled swordfish and steak. Eggplant and mushroom dishes are also wonderful with aged Cabernet Sauvignon.
Younger Cabernet Sauvignon has harsh tannin that requires more flavourful and fatter cuts of meat such as ribeye steak, prime rib, and lamb chops.
Cabernet Sauvignon is also high in alcohol, and higher amounts of alcohol make for bolder tasting wines. This is due to the alcohol being a carrier of flavour.
Cabernet Sauvignon will not pair well with light, and delicate dishes as the bold flavours of the wine will overwhelm the flavours of the food. Among Cabernet Sauvignon’s heavy-duty flavours are blackberry, cassis, plum, chocolate, vanilla, cedar, coffee, graphite leather, herbs, mint and smoke.
Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa, California is the most popular style of the red wine, however, you’ll find Cabernet Sauvignon produced around the world, including France (where used in the mighty Bordeaux), Argentina, Chile, Australia, South Africa and Italy (in Super Tuscan blends).
Cabernet Sauvignon and Steak is the perfect pairing. However, just as there are many styles of Steak (Ribeye, Filet Mignon, NY Strip Steak, Petite Tender, Skirt Steak), there are also many styles of Cabernet Sauvignon to select from. Young Cabernet Sauvignon from California can be an oaky fruit bomb that would crush the delicate flavours of Filet Mignon and would be more suited towards a grilled Ribeye steak cooked rare. When fully mature, the tannin that young Cabernet Sauvignon is going to soften, and that’s when you’d pair it with Filet Mignon cooked medium-rare.
How you cook your steak also makes a difference. Steaks that are rare feature more fat and thus are more flavourful. In this instance, a spunky tannin-loaded Cabernet Sauvignon may be more appropriate. For steaks cooked medium to well-done, you lose a lot of flavour as the fat is cooked out. Aged Cabernet Sauvignon or a medium-bodied Cabernet Sauvignon is much more suitable in this instance. You don’t want the bold flavours of a young Cabernet Sauvignon to overwhelm the subtle flavours of a Filet Mignon cooked well done (not that I would ever cook Filet Mignon past medium-rare). You’ll also find approachable Cabernet Sauvignon that is ready to drink and not as bold, making it perfect with NY Strip Steak, Hanger Steak or Porterhouse Steak cooked medium to medium-well.
The tannin found in Cabernet Sauvignon loves the fat and protein found in your steak. When tannin reacts with protein, the wine becomes less bitter and more fruity and expressive. It’s like the curtain is dropped, and all the complex flavours of black pepper, cinnamon, coffee, herbs, mineral, and raisin shine through. The tannin also works hard to break the meat proteins down, making the steak taste even more juicy and flavourful.
With grilled steak, a heavily oaked Napa Cabernet Sauvignon is delicious as the bitterness of the tannin, along with the vanilla and chocolate flavours, complement the grilled flesh of the beef perfectly. Meanwhile, if you enjoy a sauce with your Steak, Cabernet Sauvignon will love a dark mushroom sauce, red wine reductions or peppercorn sauce.
Cabernet Sauvignon and Lamb Chops
Lamb Chops are a fatty cut of meat and pack a lot of flavour, allowing the dish to hold up to the bold and rich flavours of a Cabernet Sauvignon. Lamb chops are also gamy, so if you don’t appreciate the gaminess, the ripe plum, cassis and blackberry flavours of Cabernet Sauvignon are perfect for masking that gaminess. Meanwhile, the earthy, herbal and chocolate flavours of Cabernet Sauvignon are excellent with the caramelized crust of a Lambchop. Cabernet Sauvignon from Australia and California are known for their mint flavours, which is perfect as we all know how mint jelly goes great with Lamb Chops.
In a lot of instances, quite a bit of fat is cut off from Lamb Chops before cooking. Otherwise, the Lamb Chops might taste sinewy and tough. In this instance, go for an aged Cabernet Sauvignon. Even though Lamb Chops are flavourful, a young Cabernet Sauvignon is much too tannic, and there won’t be enough fat in a trimmed piece of Lamb Chops to smooth out the wine.
Roasted Squab & Aged Cabernet Sauvignon Pairing
A refined aged Cabernet Sauvignon is outstanding with Squab. Squab is a lean meat and should not be overcooked for this pairing to work, as you don’t want to lose any of the tender flavours. When paired with an aged Cabernet Sauvignon, the wine adds juicy flavours of cassis and blackberry to this dish, adding an incredible amount of decadence. You’ll also get delicious flavours of mocha, tobacco, vanilla, and chocolate notes, which complement the squab’s roasted skin. You’ll also get hints of herbs and spice in Cabernet Sauvignon, making it a natural pair with any seasonings accompanying your Squab.
This pairing won’t work with a young Cabernet Sauvignon, so don’t even think about it! Young Cabernet Sauvignon packs too much of a tannic bite, which will overwhelm the delicate Squab flavours.
Cabernet Sauvignon & Meatloaf Pairing
Meatloaf can taste dry and bland as it is often overcooked, which knocks out the flavour or made with lean meats, which means there’s very little in the way of fat to keep the Meatloaf flavourful. Thus, you’ll often find recipes calling for a ketchup glaze to liven things up. With a bold Cabernet Sauvignon makes a wonderful wine pairing with Meatloaf as you can skip the ketchup and enjoy your Meatloaf as is. One sip of this juicy red wine and your taste buds will be in heaven with all the delicious flavours of blackberry, black currant and plum. The wine also injects some complex flavours of mint, black tea, black pepper, tobacco and mocha into the mix, giving the dish a lot more diversity.
Young Cabernet Sauvignon works well with Meatloaf as the tannin in the wine is softened by the high-protein content of the Meatloaf. This meeting of tannin and proteins makes the wine taste much more juicier and richer. Tannin also denatures the protein molecules, which allows the Meatloaf to taste much more savoury and delicious.
Cabernet Sauvignon & BBQ Ribs Pairing
While BBQ ribs are fatty and flavourful, the flavour is also delicate and subtle. I prefer my ribs slow-cooked and served as is and not drenched in barbecue sauce. With this style of BBQ ribs, an aged and subdued Cabernet Sauvignon makes for a wonderful pairing partner as the tannin in the wine has already been softened, meaning the wine won’t overpower those tender rib flavours. Meanwhile, the chocolate, vanilla, smoke and tobacco flavours complement the smoky and grilled BBQ flavours of your ribs.
If your ribs are slathered in a sauce, a young Cabernet Sauvignon could work, but it might also be too tannic. Many barbecue sauces are tomato-based, and tannin and tomato sauces do not mix well as the high acidity of the tomatoes make the tannin taste flat and metallic. In this instance, I’d look to a Cabernet Sauvignon from Argentina, Chile or Australia that is ready to drink and not as full-bodied provided the Barbecue sauce isn’t too tomato-based. In this instance, the herbal and spicy quality of the Cabernet Sauvignon will mesh well with any spices and smoky flavours found in your sauce.