Wine and steak go hand in hand. But most often, diners drink red wine with red meat. Which explains why much of the bottle list at chef Marc Forgione's Tribeca, New York steakhouse, American Cut, is dedicated to reds. But, according to sommelier Mariette Bolitiski, many white wines, surprisingly, play nice with beef. Below, she shares her two cents on the subject.
Q: Are there any white wines that pair well with steak?
Bolitiski: I'm often asked this question by our guests when they're just not in the mood for a big, heavy red. It's fair to say that not all white wines will work perfectly with steak. Sometimes it is far more important to enjoy what you are eating and what you are drinking without forcing them to work in perfect harmony. However, there are a few styles that work better than others. Look for wines that have bright, fresh acidity (which cuts through the fat), generous minerality, and that are rich and layered.
The very first thing that comes to mind when I think white wine with steak is Champagne. Admittedly, somms love Champagne with just about anything. Wines in the "Extra Brut" style have a freshness that serves to lift the fatty richness off of the palate.
Look for wines that have bright, fresh acidity, generous minerality, and that are rich and layered.
2000 Jacquesson "Les Clos" Extra Brut, Dizy, Champagne ($118): 100 percent Pinot Meunier—lf one were splurging, this would be the choice. This wine is produced entirely from Pinot Meunier and has a layer of tension lying under all that nutty richness that just begs for some fat. It will slice through that ribeye better than any steak knife you own!
Ployez-Jacquemart Extra Brut Rosé ($25): 55 percent Pinot Meunier, 39 percent Chardonnay, 6 percent Pinot Noir—Bright, fresh and lively, this wine has a touch of warm baking spices, licorice and toasted almonds that plays very nicely with cuts like hangar or skirt steak.
Chardonnay has such an incredible range. It can be bright and fresh, or it can be full and creamy, and it can be all of the things in between. In this case, I look for a wine that sees some age in oak barrels and has more of a smoky or nutty like quality, but again, still retaining natural acidity.
Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey "Les Champlots" ($90): Pierre-Yves, the eldest son of legendary Marc Colin, is being recognized for producing some of the highest guality white Burgundy at astoundingly affordable prices. His wines sing with razor-like acidity and a minerality that keeps us coming back for more. I love this wine for the smokiness that ever-so-slightly reveals itself in the glass as it warms. l would enjoy this with a dry-aged strip steak and absolutely nothing else.
The very first thing that comes to mind when I think white wine with steak is Champagne.
2012 Hudson Vineyards Chardonnay, Napa Valley ($54): Lee Hudson is one of California's most talented farmers. Not only does he grow some of the most exclusive wine grapes in the Napa Valley (some of his clients are Bob Foley, Kistler and Kongsgaard) but he produces small amounts of wine with his own label. The grapes that Lee grows for his own label are generally picked quite a bit earlier than other producers to retain natural acidity. This wine is redolent with grilled nuts, apple compote and lemon zest. Despite how beautifully aromatic this wine is, it has enough structure to support the richness of a ribeye right off of the grill.
Finally, to touch on Riesling. It sounds strange, but I'm not talking about the residual sugar, tons of peach and apricot kind of Riesling. I'm talking about rich, nutty, deep Riesling with bottle age. The intensity that a bone-dry Riesling from Alsace or Germany that is at least 10 years or older delivers can come as a wonderful surprise if you've never experienced it. The complexity that is gained from bottle aging makes so that it can stand up to richer cuts of meat, but the wines should still be fresh and vibrant. There are many fine examples out there and not all of them will cost a fortune.
2000 Domaine Weinbach "Cuvée Sainte Catherine" ($27): This site is picked a bit later than the others on the property to add richness and weight. Initially, there is a touch of orange blossom and brûléed apricot on the nose but it leads into roasted nuts, marzipan, honeycomb and petrol. This wine benefits from decanting and drinking closer to room temperature.