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February 21, 2010

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Steak and Bordeaux, the perfect partners

FEW moments in life are more perfect than when a great steak meets the right Bordeaux red wine. The two are quite simply made for each other.

Different cuts of steaks, like different regions of Bordeaux, have their own distinct characteristics. Therefore red wines from some regions, or sub-appellations, of Bordeaux are best with certain cuts of steak. This week as we start the Year of the Tiger, I'll match the three most popular steak cuts with their Bordeaux soul-mates in homage to this great carnivore.

For each steak I suggest the top Bordeaux suitable for the most special occasions, and a good value Bordeaux that won't bust the bank.

Rib Eye & St Estephe

The fattiest and juiciest of premium steaks, a good rib eye demands an equally good red wine.

It should have ample tannins to cut through the fat and facilitate digestion while also offering plenty of dark fruit flavors to embellish the savory, beefy flavors of the steak.

In essence, the wine acts as a sauce to the steak. The best solution is red wine from St Estephe appellation of Bordeaux, a region renowned for generously fruity and tannic wines.

For a truly special experience try the robust and concentrated 3rd growth Chateau Calon-Segur or the good value, but similarly hearty, Les Ormes de Pez. Both wines will bring out the best qualities of a good rib eye steak.

New York Strip & Pauillac

This classic steakhouse cut, also referred to as strip loin, is known for its rich, full flavor, making it a perfect companion to red wines from the Pauillac sub-appellation.

Wines from this region in the north of Bordeaux combine power with extraordinary complexity and balance.

Arguably the greatest of all Bordeaux wines and certainly the most consistently good over the past century, the first growth Chateau Latour has all the power and concentration to complement the deep, beefy flavors of a New York Strip.

The layers and layers of taste sensations and long, complex, tannic finish of the wine will elegantly distinguish the steak's flavors and texture. A more affordable Pauillac that's also a good match is the fifth growth Chateau Haut-Bages Liberal.

Tenderloin & St Emilion

As the names suggests, this is the tenderest of all steaks. Sometimes referred to in restaurants as fillet mignon, the lean cut lacks the rich beefy flavors of other premium cuts and therefore is often accompanied by rich sauces or prepared with other ingredients like foie gras or wrapped in bacon.

This delicately flavored steak needs a smooth and subtle wine. Predominantly merlot wines from the sub-appellation of St. Emilion offer a combination of generous ripe fruit with soft tannins that make them the ideal partners to tenderloin steaks.

The elegant red and black fruit flavors of the exceptional Chateau Canon complement rather than overwhelm the subtle flavors of tenderloin. An excellent lower cost alternative is the Chateau Paran Justice, one of the best value wines in all of Bordeaux.

Vintages matter when choosing Bordeaux wines. Good recent vintages are 2005, 2004, 2003, 2001 and 2000. Excellent older Bordeaux vintages include 1996, 1995, 1990, 1989, 1983 and 1982.


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