Ribeye steak is the juiciest and fattiest cut of steak and requires full-bodied red wines such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Bordeaux, Barolo, Merlot and Syrah. Younger versions of these wines, which feature harsh tannin, are preferred as Ribeye steak is loaded with fat and protein. The fat softens the tannin the red wine, making the wine taste fruitier and delicious. Meanwhile, the tannin breaks down the steak’s protein, making it taste even more flavourful and juicer.
When the rib bone sticks out of the steak, the steak will be referred to as a cowboy ribeye. If the bone sticks out more than a few inches, it’ll be called a Tomahawk steak. Finally, when the bone is removed, you may see it called a Scotch fillet.
My preferred way to cook a ribeye steak is with the bone in as it helps that section where it meets the bone from becoming overcooked. Thus, if you cook your steak to medium-rare, or even medium, you’ll have the option of having a rarer section of steak to enjoy. Once I’ve finished cooking the steak, I cut off the bone before serving it up.
Ribeye Steak & Cabernet Sauvignon Pairing
A young Cabernet Sauvignon and Ribeye Steak make for a 5-star pairing. Young Cabernet Sauvignon is astringent and harsh, making it difficult to drink on its own. When paired with a flavourful ribeye steak, the fat and protein soften the wine’s tannin, allowing the juicy flavours of blackberry, blueberries and cassis to shine through. You’ll also get notes of dark chocolate, mocha, herbs, leather, meat, mint, smoke and pencil shavings coming out, which make this pairing even more delightful.
Young Cabernet Sauvignon is also less expensive. The longer you age a red wine, the higher the price if you want to buy it from a retail shop or restaurant. Or you could age the wine yourself and wait a decade or two for the tannin to soften. My preference is to skip the higher cost and waiting game, and pair Cabernet Sauvignon with a ribeye steak.
The rarer your steak, the better it will pair with a younger Cabernet Sauvignon. If the wine is cooked medium or longer, a lot of the flavour and fat will be cooked out of your steak. In this instance, you’ll want a more mature Cabernet Sauvignon to pair up with your Ribeye steak as the tannin will be softer and the flavours will be more subdued, matching the less flavourful nature of a Ribeye Steak cooked well done.
I prefer California Cabernet Sauvignon with my Ribeye steak. The warm climate makes for a more herbal and fruity red wine. Cool climate Cabernet Sauvignon has a more profound green bell pepper and cedar flavour that I don’t particularly love.
Bordeaux & Ribeye Steak Pairing
Bordeaux is a blended French wine that may contain Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot. Bordeaux is a highly sought after red wine, and collectors are known to pay thousands of dollars for the best bottles.
You’ll still be able to find reasonably priced Bordeaux, and with Ribeye Steak, I’d suggest a bottle $40 and up. The more expensive the Bordeaux, the better it will taste, but stick to something in your budget. Furthermore, if you’re new to wine, you don’t want to drop $100 or more on a bottle of Bordeaux as most of the wine’s nuances will go right over your head (however, the wine will still taste freaking amazing). Thus, I’d stick to lower-cost Bordeaux between $40-$80 until your wine tasting skills are at an intermediate level.
For expensive bottles in the thousands, where you have carefully aged them for 25 years, I’d suggest a less fatty steak, such as a NY Strip Steak, to pair up with your wine. If you have your heart on Ribeye, cook it at least medium. Medium-rare Ribeye steak might overpower a mature Bordeaux.
When young, Bordeaux is loud, tannic and rich, which makes it perfect for a Cowboy Steak cooked around the medium range. The fat and flavour of Ribeye steak matches the loud flavours of Bordeaux, and the high protein and fat of the steak soften the high tannin. Softer tannin means you can taste the bold cassis, black cherry, blackberry and plum flavours of Bordeaux. Meanwhile, subtle flavours of chocolate, coffee, earth, licorice, mushrooms, truffles, smoke and vanilla tease your taste buds. The notes of earth, smoke and vanilla also complement your Ribeye steak if you finish off searing it on the grill.
Barolo and Ribeye Steak Pairing
One of the most memorable scenes from Rocky is when he is in the meat freezer, punching away at a frozen slab of cow. Pairing Barolo and Ribeye Steak evokes the same feeling, as if you’ve ever cracked open a bottle of Barolo before it’s like getting punched in the face.
The tannin in Barolo is notoriously heavy! Barolo is a wine that is meant to be aged for two decades before it is even ready to be drank. But when paired with Ribeye steak, a young Barolo can be enjoyed, as not all of us are patient enough to wait twenty years for this wine to age.
The fat and protein softens the tannin, allowing Barolo’s blackberry, cherry and plum flavours to shine through. You’ll also get lovely notes of truffle, cocoa, licorice, leather, tar and tobacco, which make this combination fit for a king.
Once again, you’ll want your Ribeye steak to be cooked around the medium range, as that’s when this steak is at its most flavourful. When you cook a steak to well-done, you lose a lot of flavour as the fat has been cooked out. In this instance, a properly aged Barolo will pair up quite nicely, however, many people consider cooking a Ribeye steak to the point of well-done a punishable crime.
Australian Shiraz & Cowboy Steak Pairing
Australian Shiraz is the same grape as Syrah, however, it’s much more popular in North America. Australian Shiraz is loud, jammy, full of vanilla and spicy with black pepper. Wines labeled with Syrah have all of these qualities, but toned down. They come across as less fruit-forward, and feature more savoury flavours like bacon and lunchmeat.
Since you’ll be spending a lot of money on your Cowboy or Ribeye steak, choose a higher quality Australian Shiraz that is $30 or more (retail). Quality Australian Shiraz producers include Penfolds, D’Arenberg, Hardys, Jacob’s Creek and Wolf Blass.
Featuring medium tannin and acidity, Australian Shiraz pairs best with barbecued Ribeye steaks cooked in the medium range. The barbecued flavours of the steak complement the smoke, black pepper, vanilla and dark chocolate flavours of the wine. Meanwhile, you’ll find refreshing flavours of blackberry, plum, raspberry and cherry to keep you fully invested in your delicious meal.
Zinfandel & Ribeye Steak Pairing
When pairing Zinfandel with Ribeye Steak, I’d recommend a full-bodied, fruit-bomb Zinfandel that is high in alcohol. These huge, Monster Truck wines in a bottle are bursting with ripe fruit flavours of blackberry, black cherry, plum and raspberry that offer a refreshing contrast against the Ribeye’s robust meat flavours. Meanwhile, the black pepper, spice and smoky flavours add even more enjoyment to this pairing.