As you may have read in some of our previous articles, pairing wine with steak is one of our favorite pastimes. Surf and turf, tenderloins, rib eyes, we’ve done it all. So when a friend of ours asked us what sweet wine is best with steak, a few immediately came to mind.
There are several sweet wines that pair well with steak, including heavy extraction cabernet sauvignons, malbecs, ice wine, and even ports! The key to a sweet wine pairing well with steak is the wine also having decent acidity and tannins to cut through the steak’s fatty flavor.
But that is not the only thing to look for when choosing a sweet wine with steak! In this article, we’ll cover all the best sweet wines to pair with steak, as well as why they pair so well. Whether you are eating surf and turf or Asian stir-fried steak, we’ll have a great sweet wine to go along with it.
Let’s get started.
The Best Sweet Wines with Steak
First things first, let’s go over the best sweet wine that pairs with steak. These wines all go well with some form of steak. We’ll be sure to list the best kinds of steak to pair them with.
1. Cabernet Sauvignon
While many people won’t consider cabernet sauvignon a ‘sweet wine’, some cabs have a lot of residual sugar. This is part of the reason why they are widely regarded as the best wine to have with steak! The high sugar, alcohol, and tannins all play excellently with steak.
Author Note: Cabernet Sauvignons go well with all traditional types of steak: filet mignon, rib-eye steaks, New York strip steaks, and pretty much every other cut. What you have to also pay attention to, however, is the type of sauce the steak comes with.
Most sauces are fine with cabs, however, if you’re pairing your steak with a sweet sauce you will probably want to pick out a different wine. Enjoying a sweet wine with a sweet sauce (such as teriyaki) is a recipe for disaster!
Second on our list is malbec. Again, many people don’t consider malbec a ‘sweet wine’, but compared to many varietals Malbec has plenty of residual sugar. And this makes it a great wine to pair with steak!
This makes sense too, as malbec comes from Argentina. Argentina (and South America in general) is one of the top consumers of beef in the world. It’s not uncommon to eat some form of steak multiple times a week. This means that their wine has been fine-tuned to go well with steak from the beginning.
We like pairing malbecs with rib-eyes, New York strips, and any type of steak that has a spicy rub on it. Malbec pairs excellently with carne asada or other Mexican spice flavored meats.
3. Syrah or Shiraz
Probably the most robust type of wine on our list, syrah (or Shiraz if you’re from Australia) also goes very well with most kinds of steaks. Syrah has a very heavy flavor profile that is often full of dark-colored fruits and cherries.
These flavors are ideal for steaks and cut through the fat of a piece of meat perfectly. We also really like pairing Syrah with BBQ ribs or other smoked meats. The spiciness of a syrah goes great with smoked meats and BBQ
One of the most widely known forms of sweet wines, no one will argue with you if port is actually sweet. Port is often known to be served after dinner, but we think a small glass of port goes excellently with steak too!
Top Tip: We prefer drinking tawny ports over ruby ports for steak, as the heavier flavors play better with the meat. Try getting a traditional tawny port from Sandeman if you want to test it out! You can usually find Sandeman in liquor stores throughout the United States.
Most ports can drank immediately after opening, but if you’re opening an especially old vintage you might want to let the port breathe a bit before enjoying it. We also recommend storing your opened bottle of port in the fridge to prevent it from oxidizing too fast. This will extend the life of your opened bottle of port.
5. Ice Wine
Last on our list of sweet wines with steak is ice wine. Ice wine is a type of fortified wine that gets its name from the late harvest of the grapes used in the wine. They are allowed to grow so late into the fall that often ice forms on them from the first frost!
We like to have ice wine with our steak because it often has a very balanced acidic and sweet flavor that goes well with beef. If you happen to get a german ice wine, try pairing it with a german beef dish that has gravy. This combo is delicious!
Don’t forget to keep your ice wine stored in the fridge after you open it.
What Else Goes Well with Sweet Wines?
If you don’t eat steak that often or would rather pair your sweet wines with something else, have no fear! There are plenty of other great choices that go well with sweet wines. Here are a few of our other favorite dishes to pair with sweet wines
- Soft cheeses. Many types of soft cheeses go great with sweet wines. If you’re enjoying a lighter sweet wine such as a Viognier or Riesling, then we recommend light flavored soft cheeses like brie or ricotta. If you’re having a heavier sweet wine like port, go for stronger soft cheeses like Roquefort or gorgonzola.
- Smoked meats. Smoked meats are another really delicious item to pair with your sweet wine. We like enjoying chorizo, sausage, and bratwurst with our heavier sweet wines. For lighter sweet wines, try smoked salmon or lightly smoked charcuterie ham.
- Pasta with creamy sauces. Another great traditional dish to pair with sweet wine is any pasta that has a creamy or salty sauce. Raviolo, penne alfredo, or buttered truffle pasta all go great with most types of sweet wines. The key is having a decent amount of salt with the pasta to balance out the sweetness of the wine.
Can You Drink White Wine with Steaks?
Another very controversial topic with wine and steak pairing is whether you can drink white wine with steaks. We believe that you can drink white wine with steaks! There are several varieties that actually pair quite well with steaks, especially if the steak comes with a white sauce or gravy.
As we mentioned earlier, german rieslings go well with steaks, as well as some ice wines. The sweetness of these white wines stands up to the powerful flavor of the steaks and pairs well with them.
Author Note: We also think that some Viogniers can go great with steaks. Serve the viognier extra chilled to cut through the fattiness of the steak and the powerful flavors of any sauces. Similar to rieslings, viogniers go really well with steak served with a white sauce. Gorgonzola or blue cheese sauces are a great match!
We also believe that you should drink wine that you like to drink, rather than always trying to optimize to what other people think is good. Do you love sauvignon blanc? Then go ahead and drink it with steak! It’s up to you to drink what you want with whatever you’re eating. Do your own thing!
How to Serve Sweet Wine with Steak
You should serve your sweet wine with steak the same way you would normally serve the wine. This means different things depending on the type of sweet wine. Let’s go over each below.
- Ice wine. Ice wine should be served chilled and in a small glass. Since it is a fortified wine, a little will go a long way. We recommend not serving ice wine until right before you’re ready to eat your steak.
- Port. On the other hand, port should not be served chilled. You should take your port out of the cellar earlier in the day to allow the bottle to warm up to ambient temperature. Depending on how old the port is you should also let it breathe for at least 30 minutes. Similar to ice wine, a little port goes a long way since it is fortified.
- Riesling. Riesling should be served chilled and in a normal white wine glass. Pour the glasses several minutes before serving your steak to ensure it is cold but also so it can breathe.
- Cabernets and Malbecs. Cabs and malbecs should be served at room temperature and allowed to breathe for at least 30 minutes before enjoying them. We like to open our bottles of cab or malbec before cooking the steak and letting them breathe in a decanter. If you’re opening a particularly old cab or malbec, you may want to let it breathe a little longer (like an hour).
Many people think only big dry reds go well with steak. But we believe this is false. As you have seen with our list, we think there are several types of sweet wine that goes well with steak. A sweet wine with steak may be untraditional, but many exciting food adventures come from the untraditional!
We hope you found this guide on sweet wines with steak useful and informative. If you have a particular sweet wine that you think pairs well with steak, let us know about it in the comments below! I’m sure our community would be interested in hearing about it.
To living a full-bodied life,