Philly Cheesesteak Sandwiches pair best with fruity red wines, such as Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Zinfandel, Lagrein, Beaujolais, or Shiraz. For white wine, I’d suggest a dry Riesling or a bubbly sparkling wine like Prosecco, which will offer a refreshing contrast.
A Philadelphia Cheesesteak sandwich is a popular fast-food specialty made from thinly sliced pieces of steak and drizzled with melted cheese before being served on a long hoagie roll. The cheese used is often Provolone, although you’ll find a wide range of other cheeses used, such as Cheese Wiz or fancy artesian cheeses.
The Philly Cheesesteak sandwich has seen so much variation over the decades, and you’ll often see so many variations, unless you’re in Philly. Food trucks, restaurants or corner stands all across North America tend to offer their own twist. For example, they might add additional ingredients such as mushrooms, green bell peppers, chicken, tomatoes and lettuce, jalapeno peppers, buffalo sauce or marinara sauce.
My favourite red wine to pair with Philadelphia Cheesesteak is Cabernet Franc, which is known for its green bell pepper flavours. Because my favourite Philly Cheesesteak sandwiches are loaded up with green bell peppers and onions, a Cabernet Franc complements those flavours perfectly. Aside from Green Bell Pepper, Cabernet Franc has lots of fresh raspberry, plum, and red cherry aromas, along with complex notes of coffee, earth, cedar, green olives and pencil shavings.
Finding the perfect Cabernet Franc is a tricky task, and it’s easy to find a poorly made Cabernet Franc, which will taste terrible. The perfect Cabernet Franc for a Philly Cheesesteak has medium tannin and high acidity. With high acidity, the onions and green peppers on your Philly Cheesesteak step out from the meaty flavours and shine bright. Acidity, along with the fresh fruit flavours of Cabernet Franc, also offer up plenty of refreshment against the saltiness and greasiness of your sandwich. Finally, the medium tannin of Cabernet Franc melds with the chopped steak, allowing the meat to taste even more tender and delicious.
To find this style of Cabernet Franc, your best bet is to look for a Cabernet Franc from the Loire Valley that’s either in a blend or on its own. I’m also a huge fan of Cabernet Franc made in Niagra Ontario, with Pillitteri Estate’s Cabernet Franc being one of my favourites.
Lagrein & Philadelphia Cheesesteak Pairing
Lagrein is an Italian red wine from Northern Italy that has medium tannin and high acidity. There is just the right amount of tannin to help break down the steak proteins in a Philly Cheesesteak Sandwich, which allows the beefy flavours to shine through. Meanwhile, you’ll find refreshing flavours of raspberry, plum and cherry that cut through the cheese and bread engulfing our sandwich.
High acidity is important, as the acidity will keep your mouth clean in between bites from all the fats and carbohydrates that numb your taste buds that are found in the steak, cheese and bun. Should you add any caramelized onions, mushrooms or roasted bell peppers to your sandwich, the high acidity will make these flavours ‘pop’. The earthier side of Lagrein showcases notes of smoke, leather, tar and herbs, which further complement any veggies and herbs on your Cheesesteak sandwich.
Merlot & Philadelphia Cheesesteak Sandwich Pairing
A medium-bodied Merlot is another excellent red wine that pairs up great with Philadelphia Cheesesteak sandwiches. Medium-bodied is a must as a full-bodied Merlot will overwhelm the Provolone Cheese on your steak sandwich. Provolone Cheese isn’t a fatty cheese, thus, a mellow medium-bodied Merlot won’t overwhelm the unique flavours of this tangy cheese. Look for wonderful medium-bodied Merlot from Chili (which makes easy-drinking Merlot) or California (full-bodied Merlot will be expensive due to time spent in oak, so if you buy something for $20 and under, you should be fine).
Soft and silky with flavours of black cherries, plums, and dark chocolate, Chilean Merlot brings plenty of refreshing flavours to the mix, merging with the steak flavours. When medium-bodied, you’ll have just the right balance of flavour that won’t drown out any of the cheese, sweet onion, bell peppers tossed onto your Philly Cheesesteak sandwich.
Beaujolais Villages & Philadelphia Cheesesteak Pairing
A Beaujolais Villages is an excellent choice with Philly Cheese Steak Sandwiches as you’ll find fresh young wine that is light and fruity. Lots of tart cherry notes, along with refreshing raspberry and strawberry flavours, will wash away all the salt and fat, making every bite of your sandwich taste like a gift from the heavens above.
Beaujolais Villages also has a hint of earthiness, thus if your Philly Cheesesteak sandwich contains any bell peppers, onion, or mushrooms, this French red wine will complement those flavours and help them stand out. Relatively inexpensive, Beaujolais is the perfect red wine to enjoy with a Philly Cheesesteak Sandwich while you watch the game. Beaujolais is also low in alcohol, which helps ensure you won’t require a nap before halftime.
Prosecco and Philly Cheese Steak Pairing
Prosecco is a sparkling wine from Italy that can range from dry, off-dry, to sweet. With Philly Cheese Steak, I prefer dry, but off-dry will work as well, as it means the wine is only slightly sweet.
Prosecco has plenty of refreshing flavours of almond, apple, pear, lemon, toast and yeast. A big part of Philly Cheese Steak is the bread it is served on, and the toasty notes of Prosecco go well with that toasted hoagie. Meanwhile, the apple, pear, and citrus flavours of Prosecco offer up a refreshing contrast against the hefty meatiness of a Philly Cheesesteak sandwich.