A popular way of eating beef is between two pieces of bread. I am thinking of the hamburger which is a simple idea that can be jazzed up in so many ways from the mass-produced disappointing offering from fast food chains to the $100 Kobi beef filled hand-made gourmet wallet shrinker.
Let’s take a mid-point. Ground quality beef patty in good bread served with a mixed salad and French fries. What wine? For me this iconic American meal demands a hearty red Zinfandel. Folklore says the best Zin’s are made by wineries whose names starts with an ‘R’, by which they mean Ravenswood, Renwood, Ridge or Rosenblum. I’d be happy with any of those, but for an everyday meal the inexpensive ‘Vintners Blend’ of Ravenswood will hit the spot.
Grinding beef for hamburgers are one way of tenderising tough cuts of meat, another method is slow cooking in liquid and Beef Bourguignon is a French classic where the liquid used is wine. As the name implies the dish comes from Bourgogne, or as we know it in English, Burgundy.
Beef Bourguignon involves chunks of beef cooked with onions, mushrooms and bacon cooked in plenty of red wine, a full bottle when cooking for four*. Of course in Burgundy they’d use the local wine, which is made form Pinot Noir. One can imagine restaurants there draining the dregs from a barrel of house wine to go in the pot. But for us Burgundy and Pinot Noir are expensive, so choose any bottle of inexpensive hearty red wine. Now, I’m going to make an unconventional suggestion. If you are in northern America try a wine made from local hybrid grapes, such as Baco Noir, Chambourcin, Chancellor, de Chaunac, Frontenac, Marechal Foch and likewise. These wines have good acidity which will assist in tenderising the meat and add good flavour and colour. And why not drink the same wine with the meal? I’d go for Baco Noir from Ontario’s Henry of Pelham, Chambourcin from Finger Lakes Goose Watch or the delicious Red Seraph (a St Croix based blend) from Connecticut’s Sharpe Hill Winery.
But, as always, remember my Three Laws of Food & Wine Matching:
• Drink what you prefer because there are no right or wrong pairings.
• Experiment, be adventurous and find your own successes.
• When in doubt, drink your favourite wine.
* Rather than repeating a recipe for Beef Bourguignon here, let me point you to a Gordon Ramsey recipe with step by step photo’s that, according to the feedback from people who have made it, is easy to make and very tasty. See http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/5032/beef-bourguignon
Peter F May is the author of Marilyn Merlot and the Naked Grape: Odd Wines from Around the World which features more than 100 wine labels and the stories behind them, and PINOTAGE: Behind the Legends of South Africa’s Own Wine which tells the story behind the Pinotage wine and grape.
There are many wine glasses available. I think Riedel (pronounced reed-el) make some superb ones. The shape of these particular glasses, although Riedel recomment them for Bordeaux wines, are ideal for any wine and will flatter any of the wines mentioned above. Just remember to fill them no more than one-third full in order to appreciate the wine's bouquet.