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Fiona Beckett - Steak to share for Valentine’s Day - and the wine to go with it.

Gary Carruthers

Fiona Beckett is an award-winning journalist and blogger and writes for the Guardian about wine and other drinks.

For other suggestions, check it out her own website matchingfoodandwine.com.

We don’t think twice about sharing a weekend roast so why when it comes to steak do we feel we have to have our own?  You could argue I suppose that a couple might, like Jack Sprat and his wife, prefer different cuts or degrees of ‘doneness’ but even they managed to ‘lick the platter clean’!

A shared steak enables you to enjoy a bone-in cut like a T bone with all the additional flavour it gives you.  Even fillet can be shared (and stretched more economically).  And given that you can cook it ahead and serve it at room temperature it makes for a simple Valentine’s night supper leaving you plenty of time for …. no, I won’t go into that. 

So what to drink?  The assumption is that steak needs a full-bodied red - something like a cabernet sauvignon or a malbec from that land of steak, Argentina but that’s not invariably the case.

Delicate fillet, for example, pairs perfectly with fragrant pinot noir (New Zealand, better known for its sauvignon blanc, is a more affordable and consistent source than burgundy.)  Or try another light, juicy red, the charmingly named Saint-Amour, one of the ‘crus’ or villages that have their own appellation in the Beaujolais region.  A creamy mushroom sauce will make this style of wine taste even more delicious.

Fattier cuts like ribeye work well with reds that have a bit of acidity to them like Chianti Classico or other Tuscan reds.

If you like your steak medium to well done you’ll find it goes best with more mature reds like aged red bordeaux, barolo or rioja gran reserva that might be overwhelmed by heavily charred rare meat.  

Serve a rich béarnaise on the side and you may be surprised to find you can drink an oaky chardonnay - a good option for those who don’t really like red wine.

Then yes, by all means enjoy your big hearty red whether it’s cabernet, malbec, merlot or shiraz. They’re best with a rare steak and/or a rich red wine sauce.  Just bear in mind - the rarer the steak the bigger the tannins (the slightly bitter sensation you get when you drink an oak-aged wine) and level of alcohol it can handle. To put it in a nutshell big reds need rare beef!

*Oh, and a final tip. If you want a young red to taste smoother and more velvety ‘double decant’ it.  In other words pour it from the bottle into a jug then back again into the bottle (a funnel helps you do this without spilling the wine).  It lets air get into the wine more effectively than just decanting it - though you can of course leave it in a decanter if you prefer.

Fiona Beckett - Which wine should you choose with your Christmas dinner?

Gary Carruthers

Fiona Beckett is an award-winning journalist and blogger and writes for the Guardian about wine and other drinks.

For other suggestions, check it out her own website matchingfoodandwine.com.

There’s so much to think about at Christmas, worrying about what wine to drink might seem way down your list of priorities but it can definitely add to your and your guests’ enjoyment of the day. Don’t be afraid to break with tradition though - food and wine matches are not set in stone. 
Here are some wines you might not have considered:

Turkey (or chicken)

Most people would think of red wine with turkey and of course that works but you might be surprised that a rich white wine like a chardonnay can be equally good especially with a fruity apricot stuffing or a light gravy. In terms of red wine I’d pick a good hearty Côtes du Rhône or Languedoc red that will cope with the stuffing and sides. Or even an Aussie shiraz.


You might feel you should splash out on an expensive bottle of Bordeaux but you know what? You don’t have to. Almost any full-bodied red will go with a good piece of beef. Most people adore Malbec these days so that’s a safe bet but a good cabernet sauvignon or cabernet blend from the southern hemisphee would also hit the spot. Look out for wines from South Africa’s Stellenbosch or Australia’s Margaret River regions


Pork is another meat that can take white or red. Chenin blanc or viognier are reliable white wine choices though a dry riesling can also be delicious, especially with pork belly. Try a modern Spanish red like a Mencia if you fancy a red.


One of my best matches this year was The Meat Merchant’s bacon ribs with parsley sauce and a Meursault but a smoky southern Italian red* with an intriguing hint of cloves was a close runner up. (Cloves and roast ham being a well-honed combination.) And never mind wine - cider and bacon are absolutely cracking together! 


One of the simplest pairings to remember. Pinot noir loves duck, duck loves pinot noir. Doesn’t have to be burgundy. You find great value pinots from Chile and New Zealand these days.

Smoked salmon

Always associated with champagne (or, these days, prosecco) but actually delicious with many still wines too. Try it with New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc or - if you’re a sherry fan - a chilled glass of fino or manzanilla sherry. It’s lovely with a light malt whisky too. Try it with a tot of Bushmills!

Christmas pudding

Depending on your recipe (EVERYONE thinks their mum’s is the best) it can be light and fruity or dark, dense and sticky but either way it’s still pretty rich especially once you add some boozy cream! Look out for an orangey Spanish moscatel like Moscatel de Valencia - one of the best value dessert wines out there. 

Mince pies

Who puts out a glass of sherry for Santa to drink with his mince pies? Well, it’s a good choice! Cream sherry, though much maligned, is delicious with mince pies but so are other fortified wines. Try a sweet madeira for a change.

Chocolate log

Light elegant dessert wines like Sauternes can be overwhelmed by the richness of chocolate desserts so go for a sweet red instead. A young ruby port (usually labelled vintage character or reserve) or a Maury from the south of France are two good choices. 


Port is the classic choice, of course, but why not try a nutty 10 (or even 20) year old tawny rather than a late bottled vintage or vintage? Or - and this is brilliant I promise you - a wee glass of sloe gin!

* a blend of nero d’avola and nerello mascalese for those of you who like to know these things

Introducing our unique Himalayan salt chamber

Gary Carruthers

As a major supplier of meat to leading hotels and high–end restaurants in Northern Ireland, London and other UK cities, Hannan Meats is using a 12ft high solid wall of Himalayan rock salt bricks to offer foodservice clients dry–aged beef with an exceptional flavour.

The translucent blocks which vary in colour from white to orange and a myriad of shades of pink were imported by Hannan Meats from mines in the foothills of the Himalayas in Pakistan’s Punjab region, which date back over 250 million years. Each of the 1,000 salt blocks was individually hand cut.

The health and therapeutic benefits of Himalayan salt have been known for centuries, but its benefits in the dry–ageing of meat are only a recent phenomenon.

Through a process called ionisation, the negative ions from the salt counteract the positive ions of meat, and result in a totally unique sweet and flavoursome end product. It is not the salt alone, but a combination of temperature, humidity, and UV light combined, that deliver supreme dry–aged meat.

Peter Hannan, managing director of Hannan Meats, commenting on the company’s decision to invest in the wall, says: “We’re really excited by the stunning flavour of the beef that we are now able to offer our chefs. The Himalayan salt is exceptional in terms of purity and its flavour enhancing qualities.

“The wall of salt enhances the overall ageing process over a period of 28–45 days. We’re using the new ageing room to dry–age premium beef sourced from local suppliers which ensures provenance. All of our Glenarm Shorthorn, and European Angus beef loins and ribs will now be aged in the Salt Chamber.

The salt wall creates the perfect environment over the ageing period, and concentrates the flavour of the meat. It purifies the air in the room, producing a clean and fresh atmosphere,” . “Working in the Chamber is like going for a walk on the beach”.

Whether it’s science or alchemy, or a combination of both, the result is aged beef with a purity of flavour not often encountered before

  • The most gloriously beautiful joint of beef we have seen in a while. The fat is amazing. - 2014 Great Taste Panel
  • We have been buying some fantastic Moyallon sweet-cured, smoked bacon chops from Hannan Meats in Northern Ireland, which were awarded a 3-star gold in the Great Taste Awards. - Mark Hix
  • Deeply flavourful rib, sirloin and fillet of Himalayan salt-aged Glenarm Estate beef supplied by Peter Hannan, who owns copyright in the charm of the Irish - Fay Maschler
  • I didn’t use to be a big fan of Father’s Day, but if the children presented me with a great hunk of Peter Hannan’s Salt-Aged Glenarm Beef, I’m definitely prepared to reconsider. - Tom Parker Bowles