Roast Beef pairs best with tannic red wines such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Shiraz, Malbec and Barolo. The fattier the cut of beef (such as Prime Rib), the more tannin you want in the wine. For leaner cuts of Roast Beef, you’ll want to pair it up with aged wines where the tannin has softened. For extra lean cuts of beef, light and fruity red wines with a hint of earthiness work best, such as a Pinot Noir, Barbera, or Chianti Classico.
How you cook your Roast Beef also makes a difference in the wine you select. Rare cuts of roast beef pair better with young wines as the bolder wine can hold up to the extra flavour of rare roast beef. The more you cook your roast, the more fat you cook out, which means less flavour. Roast Beef that is cooked medium to medium-well will pair better with mature red wines, or wines with softer tannin.
Light and fruity red wines are also exceptional with Roast Beef sandwiches featuring spicy horseradish or a hot mustard. The low alcohol content, and high acidity help tone down the heat, while the refreshing red fruit flavours of the wine mingle perfectly with the meat and bread.
Bordeaux is a full-bodied French red wine that is meant to be enjoyed with food. The classic Bordeaux blend consists of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot grapes. Generally, you’ll see a red wine that is Cabernet Sauvignon dominant (left bank) or Merlot dominant (right bank). You’ll also see various price points for Bordeaux, with expensive Bordeaux blends requiring additional decades of ageing.
You should be able to grab a reasonably priced Bordeaux off the shelf to enjoy with a roast beef dinner, and I would serve this with cuts of beef that are medium (or average) to fatty. Young Bordeaux blends won’t have the benefit of ageing, and thus they will be incredibly tannic, requiring the heavy fat and protein content of your roast beef to soften the tannin. I would only suggest this with value-priced Bordeaux. For expensive Bordeaux, you’ll want to age it and pair it up with lean to medium cuts of roast beef.
Black Currants, plum and black cherries dominate the palate for fruit, while smoke, vanilla, dark chocolate, leather, cedar, violets, herbs and earth linger in the background. The older the Bordeaux is, the smoother the wine will taste, which is why you don’t need fatty cuts of roast beef with aged Bordeaux.
Finally, the tannin in Bordeaux also makes the taste of Roast Beef taste better. What the tannin does is denatures the protein in your roast beef (breaking it down), making the beef more favourable and tender.
Australian Shiraz & Roast Beef Pairing
An Australian Shiraz is exceptional with Roast Beef. Full-bodied and plush with jammy flavours of raspberry, blueberry and blackberry, Australian Shiraz is refreshing with a tender cut of roast beef. You’ll also find notes of black pepper, spice, dark chocolate, vanilla, and smoke which make Shiraz wonderful with the crust of a roast beef or any burnt ends.
Any Shiraz will work with Roast Beef, however, I tend to recommend Australian Shiraz as it is a crowd-pleaser for North American tastes. The Australians have been producing Shiraz exceptionally well for decades, and you’ll be certain to find a bottle easily enough to match your budget. For Roast Beef, I wouldn’t select the cheapest Shiraz on the shelf, as these bottles won’t display any depth or complexity. Save an inexpensive bottle of Shiraz for everyday fare like grilled burgers, lamb stew or pulled pork tacos. Roast beef is a special occasion, and a mid-tier Shiraz will make the dinner taste even more special.
Shiraz has firm tannin and will get along with fatty cuts of roast beef such as Prime Rib. Shiraz also benefits from ageing, and when young, it is much more fruity, whereas when aged, it gets much more complex. Thus, younger wines are best with Prime Rib, as the fat and flavour of Prime Rib won’t overwhelm the wine, whereas an aged Shiraz will work better with a medium or average cut of roast beef.
Shiraz is called Syrah in France (and other regions such as California), and a French Syrah will tone down the jamminess of Shiraz and make it more herbaceous, acidic and earthy. Syrah is just as delicious with Roast Beef but isn’t as much of a crowd-pleaser. French wines can also be confusing to new wine drinkers. Thus, if you’re going to a roast beef dinner and want to bring a bottle of red wine, I’d stick to Australian Shiraz. If you’re having a quiet Sunday roast and want to expand your wine knowledge, go for a French Syrah.
Cabernet Sauvignon & Roast Beef Pairing
Cabernet Sauvignon (particularly Californian Cabernet Sauvignon) is one of the most popular styles of red wine and a favourite of many with roast beef. With a young Cabernet Sauvignon, you’re going to get a lot of tannin that will make your cheeks pucker in with its dry body. When you introduce the protein and fat content of roast beef, the tannin fades, and the delicious notes of cassis, plum, raspberry, and raisin shine through. You’ll also get some menthol (with California and Australian Cabernet Sauvignon) along with minerals, chocolate, black pepper, vanilla, smoke, spice and stone.
Quality Cabernet Sauvignon can age for decades, and over time the tannin will soften on its own, and the wine will be less astringent. Aged Cabernet Sauvignon is more suitable with less fatty cuts of roast beef, as a flavourful hunk of prime rib will overpower a mellower Cabernet Sauvignon with its bold flavours. The same theory applies to steak. Pair a young and bold Cabernet Sauvignon up with a rib-eye steak, where the two wines can compete with one another, and pair an aged Cabernet Sauvignon up with NY Strip Steak or Skirt Steak, which are delicious but (slightly) less flavourful steaks.
The final reason why Cabernet Sauvignon is delicious with beef is that the astringent tannin in Cabernet Sauvignon also breaks down the beef proteins. This denaturing of the protein makes your beef more flavourful and enjoyable.
If I were ordering a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon in a restaurant or bringing a bottle to a dinner party featuring roast beef, I would go with California Cabernets, as they are consistently good and crowd-pleasers. For a quiet Sunday evening roast, I favour Cabernet Sauvignon from other countries such as Argentina, Australia, Chile, France, and Washington State. Cooler climate Cabernet Sauvignon has a green pepper, violet and black pepper quality to it that I find delicious, while warmer climate Cabernet Sauvignon come across a bit fruitier and minty.
Barolo and Prime Rib Pairing
Prime Beef Rib is the King of all roast beef dinners, and Barolo is the King of wine, so it’s only natural that these two pair up so wonderfully. Barolo is a full-bodied Italian red wine that is made from the Nebbiolo grape.
Because the Nebbiolo grape has thin skin, the colour of Barolo is light like a Pinot Noir, and the nose is perfumed, which fools many into thinking this is a soft wine. After one sip, that’s where the charm of Barolo comes in, as this wine is so high in tannin, you’ll feel like you’ve been kicked in the face.
Rich in flavour, Barolo features notes of blackberries, cherries, chocolate, licorice, roses, tar, tobacco, violets and white truffles. Barolo often needs a decade (or three) of ageing before it’s even ready to drink. However, when you take a not so ready for prime time Barolo and pair it up with a fatty and flavourful cut of Prime Rib, the tannin in the wine softens, allowing all its expressive flavours to come out.
The fruity flavours of Barolo are refreshing when pitted against the savoury flavours of Roast Beef. Meanwhile, the earthy flavours of truffles, smoke and tobacco complement the earthy flavours found in your roast beef.
With a fully aged Barolo, you’ll want to save that for a less fatty cut of beef. Many of us don’t have the patience to age our wine for three decades but still want to drink them, which is why I suggest young Barolo with Prime Rib, as the meat will make this wine taste hospitable.
Argentina Malbec & Roast Beef Pairing
Argentina Malbec is the perfect wine with Roast Beef served at a banquet, such as a wedding or an end-of-year Christmas party. All of the wines mentioned above are expensive if you’re going for quality. On the other hand, Malbec delivers great value, is a crowd pleaser, and is perfect with Roast Beef.
Malbec from Argentina is going to be fruit-forward with delicious flavours of black cherries, blackberries, plums and raspberries. No ageing is typically required with Malbec as the wine should already feature soft tannin (at least for Malbec that hasn’t been aged long in oak). You’ll still find enough layers of complexity to appease wine lovers, such as chocolate, leather, minerals, smoke, vanilla and white pepper, and these flavours will also complement the savoury roast beef flavours.
Argentina Malbec won’t have a long finish in most instances, so this is not a wine you’ll want to pair with fatty cuts of Prime Rib. However, since Prime Rib is expensive, it’s often not served at banquets where you have hundreds of guests. For your typical roast beef dinner, Malbec will hold up to the fat and dense proteins and keep everyone happy.