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Carnivore Carnival

Inexpensive, widely available wine for beef is today's focus with a spotlight on clubs specialising in it over three centuries.

As the traditional French name for us (Rosbif) testifies, beef has long been widely recognised as an important part of the British diet.

Reinforcing that stereotype, the institution of Beefsteak Clubs grew up here over several centuries to help folk celebrate beef in the convivial, social atmosphere that enjoying it often begets.  

One such club (dating back to around 1700) even required its members to wear a special uniform – blue coat and buff waistcoat with brass buttons.

The words “Beef and Liberty” on those buttons, reflected the strong political (especially Whig) associations of those early clubs.

Delightfully, the idea of a Beefsteak Club has been revived but has now incorporated a range of suitable wines – often sold, inexpensively, in UK supermarkets.

So with the barbecue season upon us, I decided to look at wines that work well with beef and especially with steak.

Unsurprisingly, three of them are (the modern) Beefsteak Club offerings but, more surprisingly, there is no room anywhere for the usual “go-to” wine for beef – cabernet.

On her excellent Matching Food and Wine Website, Fiona Beckett offers even more detailed and useful advice on partners for beef and, as ever, her site is well worth browsing through for other food matching ideas too. 

Try this one with rare steaks

We start with the sole European wine in this collection and one from Toledo in Spain – part of that large area south of Madrid where there is a rekindled interest in traditional vineyards and in some of the mature vines that grow there.

This is the guy, I suggest, for those who prefer more restrained fruit components or for rare steaks.

Medium bodied with moderate tannin, 2018 Beefsteak Club Old Vines Tempranillo (£6.69 – instead of £8.99 until 30 June – at Waitrose and 13.5% abv) has cherry and red plum fruit, good acidity and a background of mocha, vanilla and dried herbs.   

But if fruitiness is your thing

The next wine is from South Australia’s Limestone Coast “terra rosa” soil – which is actually a much admired cabernet hotspot.

Here, however, it provides a shiraz – and one that is more subtle but less powerful than classic versions from the Barossa further north. 

Folk eating well done steak or who prefer riper, fruit forward reds should find this very much to their liking.

With fruit centred intensity yet gentle tannin, 2017 Beefsteak Club Limestone Coast Shiraz (currently £7.50 at Sainsbury’s but normally £8 and 14.5%) is based around soft blackcurrant and cherry fruit supported by firm acidity, suggestions of cinnamon and menthol and a long, creamy texture.

…And, of course, malbec

 Argentina is famed for its beef (with Uruguay it consumes more per head than anywhere else) so it is not surprising that a grape variety that has been adopted by Argentina, works well with beef.

Let’s look, initially, at a malbec that is versatile enough to suit most beef centred occasions.

Mendoza’s 2019 Beefsteak Club Malbec (£8.99 at Waitrose and 13.5%) is dark and quite meaty with full plum and mulberry fruit, soft tannin and a savoury background that has liquorice elements as well as touches of chocolate and allspice.

I understand that Morrisons have this wine at a similar price but currently on a short-term, broad “buy two get a third free” promotion.

Even more powerful

Something like ribeye steak with a good marbling of fat or any beef with a rich sauce calls for something pretty robust but malbec is still able to step up to the plate (forgive the pun) with this higher octane version.

Made by the Argentinian arm of Concha Y Toro, 2018 Trivento Malbec Private Reserve (£8 – instead of £10 until 8 June at Tesco and 14%) is fuller, darker and more concentrated than the previous version.

“Private Reserve” is one step up the Trivento hierarchy from the entry point “Reserve” and contains mulberry, damson and loganberry fruit embellished by hints of eucalyptus, cocoa and baking spice but surprisingly soft tannin.

Back again on Monday folks with Top Tips on what to buy and the latest information about promotions in big retailers.

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