Pairing wine with A5 Wagyu as opposed to American beef, is a completely different animal. Well, they’re both cows, so not completely different. Yet, the fat and flavor profile of each type of beef differ greatly. So instead of grabbing the same Cab or Syrah you like to pair with your Angus ribeye or strip, the country’s best sommeliers would steer you elsewhere.
For June Rodil, co-owner of Goodnight Hospitality in Houston, the nature of Wagyu’s fat is a reason to steer you from Bordeaux to Burgundy. “Sometimes you want something stronger with an [American] ribeye that has gristly fat,” she says. “With A5 the fat is so integrated and you’ll do a light sear because you want to feel the fat. A5 is like butter, and the texture of high-end Burgundy is strong enough, yet silky enough, to go with it.”
With a younger Burgundy vintage, the wine’s bright acidity will cut against the fat without overwhelming the flavor of the beef. It’s that subtlety that makes it not ideal with American beef. “With a ribeye or sirloin, no matter how high-end the Burgundy is, it’s just not strong enough,” Rodil says. “But A5 melts in your mouth. It’s like a pillow of delicious meat. It has a lightness to it, even though it’s fatty.”
For those who want to drink a Cabernet with your A5, you’ll still want to modify your steak pairing game plan. “For your standard run-of-the-mill ribeye, that’s where you get a young, hedonistic Cabernet that’s opulent with fruit bombs,” says Micah Clark, wine director of Michelin three-star Meadowood, which is preparing for its winter residency in Ojai. “I like a Cabernet that’s super detailed, that’s going to provide as much intricacy and points of flavor as the beef.”
That means he shies away from the stereotypical big Napa Cab in favor of winemakers picking a little earlier, not using all new oak and letting the wine hang out in barrel to develop more nuance. When the winemakers check those boxes, they create a flavor profile that fits with the A5, while the tannin of Cabernet still offers a great counterpoint to the fat of the Wagyu.
Each of the somms provided an ideal pairing for Wagyu, with Rodil looking to the old world and Clark selecting from the new.
Domaine Dujac 2017 Clos de la Roche Grand Cru, Morey-Saint-Denis, Burgundy
“The tannic structure is really elegant, but powerful at the same time, just like the marbleization of the beef,” Rodill says. “You’ll taste black cherries, a little bit of floral hibiscus and black-tea notes, but most importantly, the weight of the wine matches the weight of the Wagyu.”
Corison 2016 Sunbasket Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, St. Helena, Napa Valley
“With A5 I want something that has a bit more tannin because there’s so much fat. Also, you’re going to get intense, fresh beef flavors, but there’s a lot of char and smoke that sticks to that fat. It calls for a Cabernet with detail and intricacy, not too much bluster or oak,” Clark says. “Corison’s Cab has a lot more going on with it. There’s fruit, earth and enough tannin, but it’s well controlled.”
If you want to test out these pairings and truly understand the difference between Japanese A5 and American beef, you can try Holy Grail Steak and Robb Report‘s Ultimate Wagyu Experience. The package is a collection of the finest A5 from Japan and premium cuts of American Wagyu. The limited-edition steak boxes are available now.