Steak Dinner: Red Wine or Champagne?

28th January 2022

Red Wine or Champagne with Steak

For a long time red wine has been associated with red meats when it comes to enjoying them together. This could mean red wine in the sauce or simply pouring yourself a glass of whilst you eat red meats. White wine would be seen to favour white meats and fish, likewise both in sauces or as an accompanying glass of.

Champagne on the other hand is purely for celebrations, right? Red wine for red meats, white wine for white meats so where do the bubbles fit in?

Firstly we acknowledge that there are many different cuts, ways to cook and sauces to add when it comes to steak. Beef is usually what is served when we have steak, though we must also pay respect to fish and pork which is also are referred to by this term.

Depending on where the meat is taken from the cow will be what the name of the steak you are to be served:

  • Ribeye Steak (Scotch Fillet)
  • Tenderloin Steak (Eye Fillet)
  • Porterhouse Steak
  • T-Bone Steak
  • Hanger Steak
  • Top Sirloin Steak
  • Strip Steak
  • Flat Iron Steak
  • Bottom Sirloin Steak
  • Flank Steak

Flavours will vary also as will tenderness. Cooking requirements for some will be very different to others, eating rare on some are fine, not on others. Are we cooking by flame grill (BBQ), frying or grilled, maybe you are adding herbs, pepper, salt, sauces and more the outcome will all be very unique and requiring of different styles of wines to pair with them.

Red Wine and Steak Pairing

Red Wine and Steak Pairing


Red wines will generally be classed as full, medium or light bodied and these terms will be important when pairing with the steak you have. Usually, as you scale from light to full then the increase of both alcohol content and tannins rise. A lighter red wine will be chosen for leaner cuts of steak whereas those richer / fattier cuts are more suited to stronger and more intensive full bodied reds showing stronger tannins (tannins working to cut the fat in the palate).

So, what about Champagne?

We should note here that though most Champagne will be white wine that contains bubbles, much of it is produced with red grapes. Pinot Noir and (Pinot) Meunier being the most frequently used – what causes the difference between a white wine (made with black grapes) and a red wine (made with black grapes) is simply the length of time the squeezed juices (must) is left in contact with the skin (which will bleed its colours and make the juice go red).

Champagne and Steak Pairing

Champagne and Steak Pairing


Champagne also comes in many different styles mostly towards sugar levels. From Bruts to Extra Bruts and Brut Zeros to the Extra Dry and Doux – You can scale up from zero sugar to 50g and more per litre. Other characters include not only white and rosé styles (also Saignée), but also those with more intensive acidity as per malolactic or non malolactic. What these variations offer and considering it is a relatively smaller and unique wine region, is that its versatility up against many food styles is quite incredible! If we come out of the oyster and caviar zone then we can venture into Asian cuisine and curries, Sushi, fish and chips, game, desserts and much more besides.

Red Wine vs Champagne

So, we have two very worthy styles of wine to pair with steak, though which really holds the edge over the other? Is it personal preference, maybe there is some already existing memory persuasion (I have been with both red wine producers and Champagne producers who claim their wines are best with steak) or maybe it is just down to personal preference (or as Oz Clarke said to me at a London tasting, is it just the wine that you have to hand which is best?).

Scientists have found that the healthful chemical compounds in wine – such as the polyphenols (antioxidants) can also work to inhibit the buildup of bad cholesterol and reduce the amount that enters the bloodstream, therefore preventing damage to blood vessels.” source steakschool

Wines used:

Champagne Faniel & Fils – Agapane Brut (Pinot Noir & Meunier)

Paraza – Oh lala Pays D’Oc (Syrah, Marselan, Merlot & Cabernet Franc)

Christopher Walkey

Co-founder of Glass of Bubbly. Journalist and author focused on Champagne & Sparkling Wines and pairing them with foods.