6 Top Beef Tenderloin and Wine Pairings

6 Top Beef Tenderloin and Wine Pairings

by JJ Buckley Fine Wines


Plate of center cut beef tenderloin with demi-glace sauce.


Beef and red wine are a match made in heaven. Imagine sitting by an outdoor fire, smelling the rich aromas of grilled meat while cradling an equally fragrant glass of red in your hands. There’s nothing more luxurious than biting into a tender, juicy cut of beef and balancing the richness and flavor with a bold, structured red. The right bottle of wine will make flavors jump and come alive on your palate. Follow this guide to your wine selections and make sure your beef tenderloin dinner is a memorable one, whether you're sharing it with a big group of family and friends, a date, or just yourself.

Tips for Pairing Wine and Beef Tenderloin

When pairing wine with a cut of beef, you want to balance the proteins and fat in the beef with the tannins of the wine. The tannins bind to the proteins and create a delicious flavor combination.

Beef tenderloin is the most tender — and typically the most expensive — cut of beef. It’s an oblong muscle that extends along the rear portion of the spine and therefore doesn’t get much exercise, which is why it’s so tender. It doesn’t have the connective tissue found in weight-bearing muscles, and so you’ll find a buttery mouthfeel without a lot of chewiness.

Because beef tenderloin is quite a lean cut, it will dry out if you overcook it. It does best when grilled over high heat to a rare or medium-rare level of doneness. To balance the smoky flavors in the grilled meat, you’ll want to choose a brawny wine that also has some smoky, earthy notes like tobacco or dirt.

For a lean cut like beef tenderloin, older vintages will have mellowed tannins that complement the meat best. Stay away from wines that are too structured or too young to avoid a rough, astringent taste. Also avoid fruit-forward wines with beef, as the sweetness will overpower the meat.

Wine and Beef Tenderloin Pairings

As you’re selecting the perfect bottle of wine to accompany your beef tenderloin, consider some of the following suggestions for a tried-and-true pairing. Although all of the following will work well for your meal, get to know some of the flavor notes for each varietal to find one that suits your individual tastes. After all, wine pairing is about building the perfect meal for you and your guests.

Bordeaux

An aged bordeaux will have perfectly mellowed tannins to pair with a beef tenderloin cut. Bordeaux have full bodies and are highly structured. They have a moderate amount of fruit, but the herbs and chocolate in their flavor profiles will play well with the flavors in the meat. Try a Left Bank Bordeaux, such as Pichon-Longueville Comtesse de Lalande, which has notes of olive and truffle with a silky mouthfeel. And if you’re selecting a Bordeaux for your tenderloin, keep the rest of the seasoning simple (salt and pepper only!) so that the flavor profile of the wine isn’t overpowered.

Cabernet Sauvignon

Cabernet Sauvignon is a dark-colored wine that is full-bodied with a medium level of acidity. It’s dry and tannic, which makes it perfect for pairing with a beef cut like tenderloin. Cabernet Sauvignon is aged in oak, lending a range of notes to the glass that often include pepper, tobacco, dark fruit, graphite, and vanilla, all of which blend well with the flavors in beef tenderloin. Look for Cabernet Sauvignon from California, Australia, or Chile. 

Malbec

Malbec is a medium structured wine, but its notes of vanilla, leather, tobacco, molasses and cocoa blend well with the savory flavors in beef tenderloin. It has a light finish, which makes it best for lean cuts of meat. Malbec originally comes from France, but Argentina now leads the world’s production of this varietal. You almost can't go wrong with any Argentinian Malbec.

Merlot

Merlot is known for its easy pairing with food. Though the film Sideways gave Merlot a bad rap, it's a solid choice for any great meal, especially one with beef. Merlot is bold and full-bodied, with good acidity. The structure also makes it a great complement to dishes like beef tenderloin. Merlot has notes of bay leaf, chocolate, and vanilla that work well with lean cuts of meat. Branch out, and try a Merlot from Italy, such as Tua Rita Redigaffi or Petrolo Galatrona for integrated tannins and earthy flavor profiles.

Syrah

Syrah’s tobacco and peppery notes and medium-high tannins make it a great choice for beef tenderloin. Syrah originated in France, but it has found a New World home in Australia, where they call it Shiraz. It’s a great fit for red meats with lots of spice.

Tempranillo

Tempranillo is the top red varietal in Spain and offers a great flavor profile for its value and diversity with food pairings. Tempranillo is typically aged in oak for a year or more, and its notes of cedar and tobacco boost the smoky flavors of grilled meat. Try a selection from Rioja or Ribera del Duero - both considered to offer some of the most dazzling examples of Tempranillo.


Find a Wine for Your Next Meal

You can find all of these wines available at JJ Buckley Fine Wines, which has wine to purchase for all of your pairing needs. For more personalized recommendations, JJ Buckley’s consultancy services can advise you on just the right bottle for elevating your meal. Their knowledgeable wine specialists provide honest, impartial advice without pretension. JJ Buckley’s wine services can help you build and expand your wine collection and tailor recommendations to your individual preferences.