Cabernet Sauvignon & Food Pairings

For many, Cabernet Sauvignon is the wine of kings.  It is a complex and full-bodied red wine meant for equally challenging and bold dishes.  While in many countries, it’s often a key varietal for blends, such as the famous Bordeaux wines of France or a Super Tuscan from Italy, in this article we will focus on Cabernet Sauvignon as a single varietal wine.

Cabernet Sauvignon is not meant for light and delicate dishes; in fact, the wine will crush the meal, spoiling the flavours of the dish.  Among its heavy-duty flavours are blackberry, black currant, plum, eucalyptus, mint, violet, black tea, dusty earth, cedar, tobacco, coffee bean, mocha, chocolate, vanilla and cut wood.

Cabernet Sauvignon is also full of tannin and high levels of alcohol, and when paired against fish, or vegetables, it will have nothing to counterbalance the bitterness of the wine, making the pairing unpleasant.  If you’re a vegetarian, fear not, it does pair well with bitter vegetables like eggplant, arugula or radicchio.  As the bitter nature complements one another, the bitterness found in each component is significantly reduced.

Instead, you want dishes overflowing in protein and fat to tame the tannin and mesh with all of the rich flavours of the wine.  Popular meats with Cab Sauv are Steak, ostrich, buffalo, squab, wild pheasant, and duck.  You don’t want to overcook the meats if you’re pairing to Cabernet Sauvignon, as you’ll have less fat and protein components to tame the tannin within.

While this wine loves fat and protein, it doesn’t particularly love fish fats.  With fish, the oil does not tame the tannin in this wine, and will instead make the food and wine seem unpleasant and off.  There are exceptions to the rule, meaty fishes, that aren’t overly oily go great with Cabernet Sauvignon.  Tuna, Swordfish and Shark when grilled will pair up quite nicely with this chewy red wine.

Cabernet Sauvignon and Steak

You won’t find a more perfect pairing with Steak than a hefty glass of Cabernet Sauvignon. Heavy in tannin, Cabernet Sauvignon makes your cheeks pucker due to its dry body. When mixed with the dense protein of steak, the tannin in the wine is mellowed, and you can taste more flavours of the red wine. On top of that, the oaky notes of Cabernet Sauvignon are highlighted as the astringency of the tannin whisks the fatty content of the steak away from your cheeks.

A rule of thumb, the fattier the Steak, the bolder Cabernet Sauvignon you can pick. For leaner steaks, select a mid-bodied Cabernet Sauvignon or an aged Cabernet Sauvignon where the tannin has timed to mellow. Bolder Cabernet Sauvignon is higher in alcohol and tannin which loves fat, but when paired with leaner cuts of Steak, the pairing becomes more about the wine, rather than the meat.

If you enjoy a sauce with your Steak, select dark and rich sauces like a dark mushroom sauce, red wine reductions, or a hearty peppercorn sauce for that perfect pairing.

I love a Southern Australian Cabernet Sauvignon with my Steak, as it features notes of white pepper, which enhances the pairing for my personal tastes.

Cabernet Sauvignon and Lamb Chops

Cabernet Sauvignon is a lamb-friendly red wine as rich fruit flavours, and firm tannin structure complements the richness and texture of lamb. If you don’t appreciate the gaminess of Lamb, Cabernet Sauvignon is perfect for blocking that out with its ripe plum and blackberry flavours. Meanwhile, the earthy flavours and hints of chocolate are perfect with the caramelized crust of a Lamb chop.

In addition, you’ll find that the dried herb notes and of course, mint or menthol flavour you often find in Cabernet Sauvignon are divine with Lamb Chops!

Squab & Cabernet Sauvignon Pairing

Squab when prepared well, is absolutely decadent. It’s a lean meat, so it needs to be cooked a lot less than other game birds. Because it is so lean, there is not a lot of fat on it to combat the tannin in a young Cabernet Sauvignon. Thus you want to choose an aged Cabernet Sauvignon where time has smoothed out the tannin.

The juicy currant and blackberry flavours add to the decadence of squab. Meanwhile the mocha, tobacco, vanilla and chocolate notes complement the squab’s roasted skin.

Cabernet Sauvignon and Meatloaf

Sometimes Meatloaf can be a little dry and bland, and Cabernet Sauvignon injects additional flavours like blackberry, black currant, plum, eucalyptus, mint, black tea, tobacco, coffee bean, mocha, chocolate, and vanilla and cut wood into the mix.

The grippy tannin has no issue with the high protein content of Meatloaf. Meanwhile the cheek-puckering tannin of the wine is tamed, allowing all of its juicy flavours to come forward making Cabernet Sauvignon a refreshing pairing.

Cabernet Sauvignon and BBQ Ribs

Cabernet Sauvignon makes wonderful dance partners to grilled BBQ Ribs due to its full body and fruity flavours. Ribs are high in both fat and protein, and this one-two punch tames the tannin in Cabernet Sauvignon letting all of the rich fruit flavours explode in your mouth. Meanwhile the chocolate, vanilla, and tobacco flavours complement the smoky and grilled BBQ flavours of your Ribs.

Cabernet Sauvignon and Cheese Pairing

As for cheese, the standard rule of ‘matching intensity’ does not apply.  Cabernet is best served with mild to moderate cheeses.  If you pair this wine with heavy blue vein cheeses, the pairing will seem more like a showdown in your mouth, with the wine and the cheese duking it out to see who can win in capturing your attention.

Young Cabernet Sauvignon and Food Pairings

A young Cabernet Sauvignon loves grilled dishes, as the charred nature of the meat mirrors the bitter edge of the tannin in the wine.  When you combine these two flavours, you’ll find the bitterness of both the meat and the wine are significantly reduced, allowing you to enjoy each component that much more.  The full body of a Cabernet Sauvignon also loves ‘thick’ dishes like hearty beef stews or braised ribs.  Although we mentioned above that Cabernet Sauvignon does not love fish, if you served this wine with pepper crusted grilled tuna steak, the pairing would be spectacular.

Aged Cabernet Sauvignon and Food Pairings

As Cabernet Sauvignon ages, the tannin in the wine mellows making Cabernet Sauvignon a great pair with straightforward dishes such as beef stew, pot roast, or grilled veal or lamb.

Cabernet Sauvignon and Dessert Pairings

Although there are cocoa and vanilla flavours found in this wine, stay far away from chocolate.  Chocolate is too sweet to pair with Cabernet Sauvignon as the wine is far too dry (given its high alcohol level)  If you must pair the two together, stick with a bitter and semisweet chocolate, or a not so sweet mole-sauce.

In the table below, you’ll note that we gave Steak and Cabernet Pairing a perfect score, while other steaks rank a 4.5 or lower. This rating is mostly based on personal preference, the cut of your steak, how it’s cooked, the type of Cabernet Sauvignon, how it was made, what seasoning you use and a whole slew of other factors. So while all cuts of Steak and Cab can be a perfect pairing, most of the time you’re going to hit a strong 4 or 4.5 based on the variety of factors that go into the steak and wine’s preparation.
(out of 5)
Cabernet SauvignonSteak5
Cabernet SauvignonGrilled Steak4.5
Cabernet SauvignonMeatloaf4.5
Cabernet SauvignonCheddar Cheese4.5
Cabernet SauvignonHamburgers4.5
Cabernet SauvignonMint4.5
Cabernet SauvignonSteak Rib Eye4.5
Cabernet SauvignonSteak New York Strip4.5
Cabernet SauvignonSquab4.5
Cabernet SauvignonSquab Roasted4.5
Cabernet SauvignonLamb Chops4.5
Cabernet SauvignonSteak with Black Pepper4.5
Cabernet SauvignonBlack Pepper4.5
Cabernet SauvignonRoasted Lamb4.5
Cabernet SauvignonSteak Filet Mignon4.5
Cabernet SauvignonLamb Shanks4.5
Cabernet SauvignonTurkey Roasted4
Cabernet SauvignonBrie Cheese4
Cabernet SauvignonLamb Stew4
Cabernet SauvignonChicken Tikka Masala4
Cabernet SauvignonVeal4
Cabernet SauvignonCamembert Cheese4
Cabernet SauvignonSteak and Mushrooms4
Cabernet SauvignonRoast Beef4
Cabernet SauvignonVeal Chops4
Cabernet SauvignonQuail4
Cabernet SauvignonGrilled Dishes4
Cabernet SauvignonSteak Porterhouse4
Cabernet SauvignonVeal Roasted4
Cabernet SauvignonSteak Rare4
Cabernet SauvignonBeef Stew4
Cabernet SauvignonVenison4
Cabernet SauvignonRosemary4
Cabernet SauvignonGrilled Hamburgers4
Cabernet SauvignonGouda Cheese4
Cabernet SauvignonSteak Medium Rare4
Cabernet SauvignonDuck4
Cabernet SauvignonTête de Veau4
Cabernet SauvignonHerbed Dishes4
Cabernet SauvignonDuck Confit4
Cabernet SauvignonFarsumagru4
Cabernet SauvignonMonterey Jack Cheese4
Cabernet SauvignonSteak Sirloin4
Cabernet SauvignonSouthwestern Cuisine4
Cabernet SauvignonLamb4
Cabernet SauvignonLamb Burgers4
Cabernet SauvignonBBQ Ribs4
Cabernet SauvignonOregano4
Cabernet SauvignonOstrich Burgers4
Cabernet SauvignonOstrich4
Cabernet SauvignonLamb Grilled4
Cabernet SauvignonThyme4
Cabernet SauvignonPasta Bolognese4
Cabernet SauvignonGrilled Tuna4
Cabernet SauvignonRoasted Leg of Lamb4
Cabernet SauvignonChicken4
Cabernet SauvignonTurkey4
Cabernet SauvignonChicken with Paprika4
Cabernet SauvignonBeef Prime Rib3.5
Cabernet SauvignonPheasant3.5
Cabernet SauvignonGarlic Roasted3.5
Cabernet SauvignonBeef Rib Roast3.5
Cabernet SauvignonPizza3.5
Cabernet SauvignonGoat Barbecued3.5
Cabernet SauvignonChiles3.5
Cabernet SauvignonPasilla Chilie3.5
Cabernet SauvignonMexican Cuisine (beef based)3.5
Cabernet SauvignonChili3.5
Cabernet SauvignonBeef Short Ribs3.5
Cabernet SauvignonRatatouille3.5
Cabernet SauvignonMoroccan Cuisine3.5
Cabernet SauvignonBeef Stir Fried3.5
Cabernet SauvignonWalnuts3.5
Cabernet SauvignonHavarti Cheese3.5
Cabernet SauvignonMorel Mushrooms3.5
Cabernet SauvignonPortobello Mushrooms3.5
Cabernet SauvignonBeef Strognaoff3.5
Cabernet SauvignonShark3.5
Cabernet SauvignonIndian Cuisine3.5
Cabernet SauvignonGrilled Portobello Mushrooms3.5
Cabernet SauvignonDuck with Fruit Sauce3.5
Cabernet SauvignonBeef Tacos3.5
Cabernet SauvignonWild Boar Barbecued3.5
Cabernet SauvignonShepherd's Pie3.5
Cabernet SauvignonKidneys3.5
Cabernet SauvignonParmesan Cheese3.5
Cabernet SauvignonShitake Mushrooms3.5
Cabernet SauvignonGrilled Duck3.5
Cabernet SauvignonBeets3.5
Cabernet SauvignonPont-L'eveque Cheese3.5
Cabernet SauvignonSteak Tartare3.5
Cabernet SauvignonNutmeg3.5
Cabernet SauvignonRoasted Duck3.5
Cabernet SauvignonBerries3.5
Cabernet SauvignonAppleby's Cheese3.5
Cabernet SauvignonPort Salut Cheese3.5
Cabernet SauvignonSwordfish3.5
Cabernet SauvignonSwordfish with Black Pepper3.5
Cabernet SauvignonGrilled Eggplant3.5
Cabernet SauvignonBitter Food3.5
Cabernet SauvignonProvolone Cheese3.5
Cabernet SauvignonBasil3.5
Cabernet SauvignonSwordfish with Peppercorn Crust3.5
Cabernet SauvignonOsso Buco3.5
Cabernet SauvignonEthiopian Cuisine3.5
Cabernet SauvignonWild Boar3.5
Cabernet SauvignonRoquefort Cheese3.5
Cabernet SauvignonBay Leaf3.5
Cabernet SauvignonFajitas with Steak3.5
Cabernet SauvignonBraised Dishes3.5
Cabernet SauvignonLamb Kebabs3.5
Cabernet SauvignonTeleme Cheese3.5
Cabernet SauvignonBeef3.5
Cabernet SauvignonTuna3.5
Cabernet SauvignonMeat Fondue3.5
Cabernet SauvignonCaribbean Cusine3.5
Cabernet SauvignonSteak Chicken Fried3.5
Cabernet SauvignonCherry3.5
Cabernet SauvignonBeef Casserole3.5
Cabernet SauvignonCold Beef3.5
Cabernet SauvignonRed Bell Pepper3.5
Cabernet SauvignonGame3.5
Cabernet SauvignonCauliflower3.5
Cabernet SauvignonBeef Pot Roast3.5
Cabernet SauvignonGreen Bell Pepper3.5
Cabernet SauvignonGame Birds3.5
Cabernet SauvignonSteak Frites3.5
Cabernet SauvignonArugula3
Cabernet SauvignonDark Chocolate2
Cabernet SauvignonDanish Blue Cheese1.5
Cabernet SauvignonBlue Cheese1.5

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