Cabernet State of Mind

5 Delicious recipes and pairing beyond red meat


Having just returned from California, and Napa Valley specifically, I’m in a bit of a Cabernet state of mind, not that there is anything wrong with that. Napa is, after all, Cabernet Central; though many other fine wines can be found there, there is something about Napa Valley that just elicits a Cabernet Sauvignon kinda feeling.
I enjoyed quite a few examples of Cabernet during my visits, and the truth is that while there is a very definite Napa Valley style, there are also wines that are working the fringes, either being over the top or showing restraint and elegance. This generally holds true for wines from around the world. Most live in the middle of the preference curve, happily occupied by fruity, soft and rather rich wines, but that is not the end all and be all of Cabernet.
All this got me thinking, specifically thinking of pairing Cabernet with food, and not just big beefy steaks. Is Cabernet food friendly and flexible? You bet. In fact, here are five recipes to get you thinking about pairing Cabernet with some surprising culinary partners.


Let’s start with one of the harder pairings, at least if one were to believe in the sacred tenets of the past. We’re not supposed to serve red wine with fish, unless perhaps in ancient Burgundy. That is fine, and still a sound rule for the most part. But what happens when you just want to have fish with your Cabernet? Is it even possible?

Of course it is, and there is no reason you couldn’t enjoy your Cabernet with any fish, other than the wine police telling you so.  Of course, that might make for some unorthodox pairings, but there are definitely some winning combinations out there waiting to be tried. Take for example a black pepper-crusted grilled tuna steak, or this wickedly delicious sounding baconized tuna! This would be a great partner for a bright, cool climate Cabernet of modest girth. Maybe something from Chile with some Carmenere and Merlot included. 




Pork is actually one of the friendliest meats, primarily because it can be adapted to virtually any style of preparation and the various cuts range from nearly pure, juicy fat to nearly none. For my purposes here, something relatively in the middle would probably be best. I’m looking for a rustic preparation to pair with bold, big wines.  Now rustic doesn’t have to be boring, as these Pork Chops slathered in Sundried Tomato Pesto can attest.

This is going to be an intensely flavored mouthful, and the flavors actually have a lot in common with classic Cabernet notes, which can include both herbs and tomato flavors. Seeing as this is an Italian-influenced dish, it’s worth looking to the Boot for wines to pair with it. Surprisingly, Cabernet does quite well in much of Italy, so your choices are quite broad, ranging from lighter wines in the north to rather full bodied wines that enjoy the Mediterranean warmth of the central and south of the country.

Two to try:


OK, this is actually pretty easy, not that I’m going to cheat or anything. There are so many chicken recipes that use wine as a braising liquid, and that creates an obvious way to serve Cabernet with chicken. The flavors of the wine serve as a bridge between dish and glass; it’s an old French secret, and Italian, and Spanish, and Portuguese, and...

Anyway, since we’re going with a Mediterranean staple here, it opens all sorts of doors, though I’ll keep things simple by looking to the south of France to supply the wine. The Pays d’Oc region is big, like really big, and blessed with exceptional weather and a lot of recent investments. So look to the area for great values in modern style wines, perfect for pairing with a little braised bird! 

Two to try:


Everyone in my family is eating less meat these days, so learning more about wine and vegetarian food pairings is on my front burner. Of course, we’re all drinking less Cabernet as well so this shouldn’t be a problem. Oh snap! Did I just say that? Well, the truth is that we have been drinking less, but with some of my newfound favorites that’s going to change. Promise.

This dish, based on bell peppers, a flavor inherent to Cabernet, and liberally dressed up with mushrooms and other savory elements, is an easy pairing for a fruit-forward, friendly style of Cabernet. The red fruit of many Sonoma Valley Cabernets would be perfect here, and fitting, since that is a hotbed of healthy farming and eating.

Two to try:


OK, so I couldn't resist. While this may not be beef, red meat and Cabernet are a match made in heaven. Lamb is a classic pairing with Bordeaux, but it really is super friendly for all red wines. A preparation like this, flavored with dried chilies, is perfect for a classic Cabernet, one that retains a touch of herbaceousness. The wines of South Africa that rely on the Bordeaux varieties such as Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon are known for their smoky and sometimes herbal edges and have plenty of acidity to stand up to the sweet flavors of lamb fat, making this a no brainer.

Two to try:
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  • Snooth User: Rob51
    1244536 22

    Where are the recipes for the food?

    Mar 01, 2013 at 5:40 PM

  • Snooth User: SaginawSue
    1238554 38

    @rob51 Click on the bold lettering that says Chicken recipe's in the first paragraph

    Mar 01, 2013 at 6:38 PM

  • Snooth User: Tiakittie
    1041141 89

    The only pairing I question is the Tuna...and ONLY because some red wine and fish combos can make the fish taste metallic - something about the omega acids interacting with the tannins in the wine. A relatively tannic wine such as Cabernet COULD make your fish taste like aluminum or mercury! I've never tried grilled Tuna with Cab, but I can tell you from experience - Pacific Salmon and Cab=BAD!!!! Beyond that, knock yourselves out - food and wine pairing is about taste, not propriety and tradition!

    Mar 02, 2013 at 10:48 AM

  • I don't know where 2 start about a wine that I had a month or so. Aquinas CAB SAU 07 I think, I like red the most does't matter from were,try 2 stay in the U.S.A.But tried others.I don't how U can taste certain flavors or smell's,but this Aquinas had a taste &smell that I could not forget.By the time I finished the bottle the next day I was HOOKED.I asked were I buy most of my wife's & my wine at AKA FRISCO'S in Frederick,MD.Great place 2 eat also,if I could buy a case or the vineyard,HA HA HA. Placed calls 2 many places,haven't had any luck. ALL GONE!!

    May 31, 2013 at 10:55 PM

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