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The 5 Best Cooking Wines For Beef In 2023

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We think by now everyone should know that red wine goes with red meat and white wine goes with white meat. Although this rule isn’t by any means carved into stone, it is a very good guideline to follow when you are trying to pair wine with food.

Using wine in food has become increasingly popular, even though this isn’t a new trend. Wine has been used to create beautiful, hearty dishes for thousands of years. Unfortunately, or rather, fortunately, today there are thousands of wines to choose from.

What are the best cooking wines for beef? Heavy, dry red wines like Merlot and Pinot Noir work best with any beef stews, casseroles, or roasts. The best wines for beef have moderate tannins and are only slightly aged to keep their fruity flavors.

In this article, we will explore the 5 best cooking wines and talk about each of their unique characteristics that will help you understand why they work.

Even if you don’t like these specific varietals, blends, or brands, you can still use the information provided on them as a guideline to choose others!

What makes a good cooking wine for beef?

Wine.com has over ten thousand wines to choose from so to help you narrow it down, we have provided an amazing guideline to help you choose a cooking wine for beef. As always, in the end, it is entirely up to your own preference.

How to choose the best cooking wine for beef:

  • Choose the wine you enjoy. If you won’t drink the wine on its own, don’t waste it during cooking. Always choose a wine that you enjoy in any form.
  • Choose a good quality wine. No amount of cooking will improve the bad flavors, in fact, it will actually concentrate and enhance them! 
  • Choose wine types with moderate tannins. These include varietals such as Merlot, Pinot Noir, Cabernets, and Sangiovese.
  • Young wines (wines that haven’t aged for long) will have the best fruity flavors that will complement beef greatly.

Wine Terminology

Before we start exploring our top 5 cooking wines for beef, let’s do a quick overview of wine terminology – these words might sound very fancy, but don’t worry, they all have very simple meanings.

Terminology Think of it as Description
A varietal wine is a wine that has been produced using a single grape variety.
For example, a Pinot Noir wine consists of only Pinot Noir grapes and a Chardonnay wine consists of only Chardonnay grapes.
Wine blends
These are made from multiple grape varieties.
For example, a Red Bordeaux consist of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Malbec.
Tannin/s How acidic the wine is (taste). Tannins come from the skin of the grapes, stems and seeds which are pressed during red wine production.
The longer the items are pressed, the more bitter, dry and astringent the wine will become.
Tannins are much more dominant in young wines because they haven’t had time to soften with age.
Nose / Aroma What the wine smells like. The “nose” of the wine describes what the wine smells like.
Beginners won’t be able to pick up specific aromas, however, with time you know how your skill and experts can pick up definitive smells such a red cherries or grapefruits, etc.
Color What the wine looks like. The color of the wine can be seen when swirling the wine inside a large glass. Initially, you will obviously only see (for red wines) a red color, but upon closer inspection, you might pick up purple, brown, pink or black hues.
This is also a skill honed with time.

5 Best Cooking Wines For Beef

Below, in no particular order, are our 5 best cooking wines for beef recipes. All of these wines can be found on wine.com, which is one of the best wine suppliers of all time.

RankWineRecommended Recipe
1.2017 Merlot by DuckhornGarlic butter beef sirloin cooking in a delicious Pinot Noir mushroom gravy
2.2017 Merlot by DuckhornMerlot Beef Osso Buco served on thyme-infused long-grain white rice
3.2017 Cabernet Sauvignon by Stark-CondéCabernet Sauvignon and mustard roast beef with a black pepper crust
4.2017 Syrah by Montes Alpha from Colchagua ValleySlow-cooked pulled Syrah beef pasta (with loads of herbs, spices, and vegetables)
5.2016 Zinfandel by Louis MartiniBeef and chorizo Zinfandel Chili Tortilla

1. Pinot Noir

Recommended Wine: 2016 Pinot Noir by Roserock from Eola-Amity Hills

This Pinot Noir comes from Eola-Amity Hills in Oregon which, for wine enthusiasts, explains a lot.

The grape varieties that grow on this particular soil, which is located on ancient volcanoes, produce grapes that have more tannin and minerals in them and an incredibly intense flavor than other soils don’t provide.

When you initially inspect the wine, you will see that the wine itself is a pale ruby color (medium red) with a dark purple hue. 

You pick up clear aromas of blueberries, cherries, and some form of herb.

When tasting the wine, the initial flavors that come through are deep fruits, herbs, blueberries, and spice such as cassis or cinnamon. You can definitely taste that it is an acidic and dry red wine. The wine finishes with strong earthy tones.

Overall, this is a complex tasting wine with lots of different flavors that will allow you to pair it beautifully with many beef dishes. The best part; the price! It is a surprisingly affordable wine for all that it offers.

Recipe inspiration:

  • Garlic butter beef sirloin cooking in a delicious Pinot Noir mushroom gravy
  • Pinot Noir beef shoulder stew served with rosemary flavored long-grain brown rice
  • Pinot Noir sticky beef ribs (smoked)
2016 Pinot Noir from Roserock
Variety Pinot Noir
Year 2016
Appellation Eola-Amity Hills, Willamette Valley, Oregon, United States
Winery Drouhin Oregon Roserock
Alcohol  14.1%
James Suckling Rating 94
Color Pale ruby red with purple hues
Nose/ aroma Blueberries, black and red cherries
Taste Blueberries, cherries, Mediterranean herbs, cassis (or cinnamon)
Pairs with Beef Other meats like poultry, veal or game Soft cream and cheese Alliums (onions, shallots, garlic) Fungi (mushrooms) Nuts and seeds (peanut, pecan, almond, sesame) Aromatic and exotic spices White starches Whole grains Potatoes

2. Merlot

Recommended Wine: 2017 Merlot by Duckhorn

Napa Valley is home to some of the worlds’ best wines. Due to its unique microclimates and soils, the area produces incredibly rich and expressive wines.

Duckhorn’s’ 2017 Merlot is no exception. It is a very complex wine with a lot of layers. Firstly, the blend of merlot (80%) and other varieties such as cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, Petit Verdot, and malbec.

This allows the winemaker to take the best qualities of each and to blend it into one cohesive wine.

On the nose, there are prominent aromas of black fruits like cherry and blackberry as well as strong plum aromas.

On the palate, those flavors are translated into predominantly ripe plum and blackberry. This wine isn’t very acidic, enabling it to elevate other flavors such as cherry, blueberry, licorice and hints of cocoa and coffee.

This wine also has strong oak (earthy) flavors that come through which makes sense considering it is aged for 15 months in oak barrels.

Overall, this is a very easy-drinking, smooth yet bold wine that has lots of complex flavors that are balanced beautifully. This wine is definitely one of the more expensive wines, but still not unaffordable.

Recipe inspiration:

  • Merlot Beef Osso Buco served on thyme-infused long-grain white rice
  • Beef Merlot pot roast (prominent flavors of smoked paprika, broth and tomato puree)
  • Slow-roasted Merlot beef tenderloin with a Merlot shallot sauce 
2017 Merlot by Duckhorn
Variety Merlot
Blend 80% Merlot, 16% Cabernet Sauvignon, 2.5 % Cabernet Franc, 1 % Petit Verdot, 0.5% Malbec
Year 2017
Appellation Napa Valley, California
Winery Duckhorn
Alcohol  14.5%
pH 3.61
Aging 15 months in 100% French oak
James Suckling Rating 92
Color A very unique deep red
Nose/ aroma Ripe plum, blackberry, cherry
Taste Ripe plum, blackberry, oak, cherries, blueberries, cocoa, licorice, coffee
Pairs with Beef Other meats such as cured meats, pork or poultry Pairs great with most forms of dairy (mainly fragrant cheeses) Alliums Nightshades (tomato, eggplant, bell peppers) Fungi (mushrooms) Herbs Most spices White starches (breads, rice, pasta, flatbreads) Potatoes

3. Cabernet Sauvignon

Recommended Wine: 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon by Stark-Condé

Moving on to some international wines, this Cabernet Sauvignon from South Africa is something else.

If you are not familiar with wines from this country, they are one of the largest producers of wine as well as some of the best producers of it.

Stellenbosch specifically boasts thousands of internationally award-winning wines.

The harvested grapes of 2017 were very small due to the drought the country experienced thus producing grapes with very concentrated flavors which reflects perfectly in the wine.

This wine has a very bold red color with hints of dark, almost black, purple.

The initial aroma you get is that of blackberry and tea-leaf. Cedar and oak are also very strongly present on the bouquet.

This is a very dry and acidic wine that will relate beautifully to the food. It boasts flavors of black fruits like blackberry and also has rich mocha flavors (chocolate and coffee). Some consumers describe notes of plums and currants as well.

The wine is bottled without being filtered after it has been oak matured for 20 months, bringing forward strong oaky and earthy flavors.

Our opinion: Do yourself a favor and try this wine in your next beef stew – you will not be disappointed. It is incredibly flavorful and perfectly balanced.

Price-wise, it is hard to place it exactly as it is an imported wine. On average though it is very well priced for a complex and inspiring wine.

Recipe inspiration:

  • Slow-cooked beef short ribs on mashed potatoes
  • Cabernet Sauvignon and mustard roast beef with a black pepper crust
  • Filet Mignon with roasted bell pepper and Cabernet Sauvignon sauce
2017 Cabernet Sauvignon by Stark-Condé
Variety Cabernet Sauvignon
Blend 85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Petit Verdot, 4 % Petite Sirah, 2 % Malbec, 1% Cabernet Franc
Year 2017
Appellation Stellenbosch, Western Cape, South Africa
Winery Stark-Condé
Alcohol  14%
pH 5.8
Aging 20 months in French Oak
Color Deep red with dark purple-black hues
Nose/ aroma Blackberry, tea-leaf, oak and cedar
Taste Blackberry, mocha (coffee and chocolate), oak, plum, currants
Pairs with Beef (the best possible wine varietal) Other meats such as cured meats or pork Hard cheeses Alliums Nightshades (tomato, eggplant, bell peppers) Fungi (mushrooms) Black pepper White starches (breads, rice, pasta, flatbreads) Potato

4. Syrah

Recommended Wine: 2017 Syrah by Montes Alpha from Colchagua Valley

This wine comes from the slopes of Chile, another very overlooked premium wine-producing country. Colchagua Valley is one of the best-known wine regions in Chile and produces exceptional Syrahs.

Montes Alpha is arguably the best and most important wine producer in Chile. This 2017 Syrah specifically has multiple awards for its unique and complex taste.

The wine is a dark, bold red and boasts intense aromas of ripened black fruits like figs and blackberries. More subtle smells of leather and dark chocolate are also present and that of black currant liqueur (creme de cassis).

On the palate, there are strong blackberry and oak flavors as well as subtle notes of plum, vanilla, and a variety of spices.

This is a value-for-money type of wine. Of course, it’s not the cheapest wine you will ever find, but it is definitely very well priced. It will pair beautifully with many fragrant and flavorful foods.

Recipe inspiration:

  • Slow-cooked pulled Syrah beef pasta (with loads of herbs, spices, and vegetables)
  • Syrah miso short rib on fried rice
  • Italian beef, porcini and Syrah stew served with fresh ciabatta slices
2017 Syrah by Montes Alphas
Variety Syrah
Blend 90% Syrah, 7 % Cabernet Sauvignon, 3% Viognier
Year 2017
Appellation Colchagua Valley, Chile, South America
Winery Montes Alphas
Alcohol  14.5%
pH 5.2
Aging 55% of the wine is matured in oak
James Suckling Rating 94
Color Bold red
Nose/ aroma Ripe black fruit (figs and blackberries), creme de cassis (black currant), leather, dark chocolate
Taste Blackberry, oak, vanilla, plum, chocolate, and spice
Pairs with Beef (the best possible wine varietal) Other meats such as cured meats or pork Hard cheeses Alliums Nightshades (tomato, eggplant, bell peppers) Fungi (mushrooms) Black pepper White starches (breads, rice, pasta, flatbreads) Potato

5. Zinfandel

Recommended Wine: 2016 Zinfandel by Louis Martini

Last, but certainly not least, we end off with another U.S. wine from Louis Martini Winery.

These Zinfandel grapes were harvested from vines planted back in 1893. This creates an even more unique wine above all the others.

As with the first Pinot Noir on our list, these vines are also located on volcanic soils, meaning an intense concentration of flavors and high acidity levels.

This wine has a very bright and deep red color and is very aromatic. Earthy notes are the first thing you smell, followed by raspberry and plum.

This wine is incredibly complex, and so will every wine expert tell you. Each time you taste it, different prominent notes are coming through. Everyone can agree on the earthy flavors on the palette, where the difference in taste comes in is the other flavors.

Some claim plum, blueberries, black cherries, while others claim raspberries, cranberries, strawberries, and cherries. There are definitely some hints of spice, be it black pepper, cinnamon, or licorice.

That is one of the main reasons why we love this wine – it is so diverse and will go great with virtually any beef dish. This wine does have a much higher price-tag than the rest of lists’, however, we would highly recommend trying it sometime. It’s incredibly complex and very well-balanced.

Recipe inspiration:

  • Beef and chorizo Zinfandel Chili Tortilla
  • Zinfandel beef cheek ragu
  • Zinfandel oxtail stew with crispy fried rosemary potatoes
2016 Zinfandel by Louis Martini
Variety 100% Zinfandel
Year 2016
Appellation Monte Rosso Vineyard, Sonoma Valley, California, United States
Winery Louis M Martini
Alcohol  16.2%
pH 3.6
Aging 15 months in French and American oak
James Suckling Rating 94
Color Bold red with purple hues
Nose/ aroma Earthy and fruity with hints of spice
Taste Very complex; plum, blueberries, black cherries, raspberries, cranberries, strawberries, hints of spice (black pepper, cinnamon or licorice) and definitive earthy (oak or cedar) flavors.
Pairs with Beef Other meats such as cured meats, pork or poultry Pairs great with most forms of dairy (mainly fragrant cheeses) Alliums Nightshades (tomato, eggplant, bell peppers) Fungi (mushrooms) Herbs Most spices White starches (breads, rice, pasta, flatbreads) Potatoes

Up Next: The 3 Best Cooking Wines For Chicken

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