Wine and food pairing isn’t exactly a science. But it’s not quite an art form, either.
No — pairing lies squarely at the intersection of the two.
To become a master culinary matchmaker, you need to know not just the chemistry of conflicting food compounds but also the art of trusting your taste buds and gut instinct.
All of your accrued knowledge comes into play when it comes to judging one of the boldest, most flavor-rich red wines on the market.
Cabernet Sauvignon is famous for its complexity, intense aroma, and layered sipping experience. For many enthusiasts, it just might be the perfect glass of red. And the perfect glass of red deserves the perfect partner.
Read on to learn all about the basics of Cabernet pairing and discover six rich entreés and savory snacks to whip up for your next glass of Cabernet Sauvignon.
If you were wondering about Cabernet Sauvignon's pronunciation, it’s KA-br-nay SOW-vuh-yown.
Cabernet Sauvignon Pairing Basics
The intense flavor profile of Cabernet Sauvignon makes it a natural pair for hearty, bold dishes like a medium-rare steak or another rich meat dish.
Lighter dishes like chicken breast and tilapia might taste muted and dull in comparison to the complex aroma of a robust Cab.
That said, some vegetarian dishes can work with a bold red like this one, including savory portobello mushroom and hard cheeses.
Of course, your pairing also depends on the Cabernet you’re working with. New World Cabernets from California and Australia are often even more intense than Old World Cabernets from Bordeaux.
The same principle applies to the age of your specific vino. In general, the older the wine, the softer the tannins, and the milder the flavor.
To find the best match for your Cabernet, take a few deep whiffs, try a mindful sip or two, and trust your instincts.
Now that we’ve covered the basics of Cabernet pairing, let’s dive into 6 of our favorite pairings for Cabernet Sauvignon.
Steak and red wine is a legendary pairing for a reason. The juicy ripples of fat that make up a luxurious ribeye and sirloin steak are exactly what the doctor (or sommelier) ordered.
A crisp white or delicate rosé simply can’t penetrate the rich fatty flavors of red meat. That’s where Cabernet comes in.
The powerful umami flavors in fine cuts of meat served rare to medium-rare unlock the complex notes of dark fruit and black cherry within a bold Cab.
Sure, you could pair a glass of fine Cab with a simple fast-food snacker, but that’s not what we had in mind.
Instead, let your mind wander to grass-fed, all-American beef with crunchy lettuce, juicy tomatoes, and savory brined pickles.
Let’s take it up a notch.
Drizzle that juicy burger with savory barbeque sauce, sweet caramelized onions, and melted swiss.
Now we’re cooking.
And what better beverage to round out this meal than a burgundy glass of Cabernet Sauvignon?
The bright acidity and robust tannins of Cabernet cut through the fatty texture of meat. The intense flavors of the red mingle harmoniously with the meaty nature of the dish, creating a match made in culinary heaven.
The only key tip to keep in mind with this dish is to order your burger medium-rare or medium-well at the high end. If the meat is too well done, the tough texture might taste muted and gray when it comes into contact with your delicious red vino.
If you’re on a hiatus from red meat, then roasted lamb makes a no-compromises alternative sure to bring out the best of whatever Cabernet you’re sipping on.
Whether you’re cooking up a leg of lamb, rack of lamb, or lamb cutlets, this meat dish makes a rustic accompaniment to a bold glass of Cabernet.
If you want even more flavor for your Cabernet to tango with, seek out lamb dishes that are supplemented with mushroom gravy or reduced balsamic vinaigrette.
Meat isn’t the only mainstay pairing when it comes to Cabernet Sauvignon.
The chewy texture of portobello mushrooms isn’t far off from eating lighter meat. Top your mushrooms with decadent toppings like roasted garlic, melted butter, and chopped chives, and you’ll find your portobello crying out for a complex red wine like Cab.
If you don’t have any portobello mushrooms on hand, dried porcini mushrooms can also work in a pinch!
When it comes to the mouthwatering, meaty flavor of barbeque ribs, we recommend reaching for a glass of lower tannin Cab. Many barbeque sauces are tomato-based, which tend to clash with high-tannin New World wines like a Paso Robles Cabernet Sauvignon.
Instead, seek a Bordeaux varietal or try and cook up barbeque ribs in a non-tomato-based sauce. At their best, barbeque ribs are brilliant at coaxing out those subtle, tertiary notes in your Cabernet like chocolate, smoke, and tobacco.
Another vegetarian-friendly option for Cabernet Sauvignon is a decked-out cheeseboard.
As a rule of thumb, the most reliable Cabernet Sauvignon cheese pairings are hard cheeses like aged cheddar or aged gouda. Although, bold blue cheeses like gorgonzola also work wonders for those enthusiasts seeking maximum flavor and spice in their charcuterie night.
Of course, cheese also makes a great accompaniment to salty meat snacks like cured salami and prosciutto or melted atop a juicy burger.
If you’d like some outside help, take a trip to your local cheese artisan and ask them what cheese types they recommend for your upcoming night-in.
Elevate Your Cabernet With the Wine Connoisseur
The complexity of Cabernet Sauvignon isn’t for the faint of heart.
The robust tannin structure, black currant, and berry notes you’ll find in a top Cabernet Sauvignon make for a complex, layered sipping experience like no other.
The varietal is practically tailor-made to make the most of savory entreés like juicy burgers, sirloin steaks, and savory portobello mushrooms.
That said, if you feel strongly about pairing your glass of ruby-red with a flaky chicken, go for it. Remember, you’re the only one who has access to your taste buds. Always value what tastes great to you above anybody else.
Although, we will insist that you properly chill and aerate your glass of Cabernet.
For a stress-free sipping experience, take a look at the Wine Connoisseur. This personal sommelier effortlessly calibrates every glass of wine to its optimal serving temperature and aeration levels, helping you make the most of every sip.
Explore our convenient, environmental-friendly wine sachets, from rich red wines to crisp whites.