Somm Challenge: Top Eight Wine Pairings for Beef Tartare

Beef Tartare

© Shutterstock

Beef Tartare

Beef Tartare

© Shutterstock

Finely chopped and savoury: The French top chef George Auguste Escoffier had the idea of chopping raw fillet steak and serving it with various seasonings as early as 1921 – for some time now, the delicious starter with fresh beef, capers, onions, gherkins and other spices has been celebrating its great comeback. 

Colheita Verdelho 2006, Barbeito, Madeira

Originally from Styria, Austria, but with a professional record stretching from Hamburg via Berlin’s Cordo to Munich, Gerhard Retter also is a German TV star and internationally sought-after sommelier. He recommends a wine from Madeira to go with the beef tartare. 

For me, an ideal partner is a balanced Madeira such as the semi-dry 2006 Verdelho Madeira from Barbeito, matured in the canteiro process. Great, fresh acidity – from the north side of the island. The wine has enough power to give both the spices and the whisky a wonderful lightness. And a tip for those who like something a tad stronger: Jackie Cola (Coca Cola with Jack Daniels).

Junmai Daiginjo Sparkling Sake, Keigetsu-Tosa, Japan

German sommelier Jan Konetzki is director of wine at London's Four Seasons Hotel and Ten Trinity Square Private Club. As a pairing to the hearty starter, he combines a sparkling Sake.  

A beef tartare is actually quite (wine) pairing-friendly, but for me the Sparkling Sake John from Keigetsu-Tosa Brewing Company is a delightful match. This Junmai Daiginjo sake made from gin-no-yume rice has a strong perlage and aromas of peach and cherry blossom. The viscosity of the sake underlines the multi-layered flavours of dry-aged beef, with its spices and the pungency of mustard and chilli. This match is made successful by the secret weapon or secret ingredient of a small amount of onion. Raw onion is like a flavour enhancer for Sparkling Sake. This match will be remembered!   

Vidonia 2018, Suertes del Marqués, Valle de la Orotava, Tenerife, Spain

Sindy Kretschmar came to "The Ritz-Carlton, Vienna", where she is head sommelière, after several stints in the German Michelin-starred gastronomy. Thanks to her hosting genes and in-depth expertise, she was named Falstaff Sommelière of the Year in 2018. With the beef tartare, she recommends a volcanic white wine from Tenerife. 

In the green north of Tenerife, at the foot of the Pico del Teide volcano, this exciting, lively character wine from Suertes del Marques has been produced since 2006 from ancient vineyards of the native Listán Blanco variety. The first sniff seems to take you to Burgundy, with smoky, stony notes from the volcanic soil. On the palate, memories of the Jura are evoked; salty, a little pepper, white flowers, fresh, lively and expressive.

Cuveé La Solucio Rosa 2018, Venus la Universal, Montsant, Spain

Madeleine Löhner, a native of Upper Austria, worked as a restaurant manager and sommelière at the two-star restaurant "focus Atelier". Today she runs her own restaurant, "HYG", in Weggis, Switzerland. She combines a rosé from Catalonia with the beef classic. 

With the classic beef tartare, I recommend an exciting alternative to red wine. Namely a 2018 Cuveé of Syrah, Cariñena, Garnacha Blanca, Garnacha Negra, Macabeo from Montsant in Spain. The rosé from Venus la Universal  La solucio rosa offers an exciting contrast to the creamy and spicy marinade of the tartare. A hint of undergrowth, Mediterranean herbs, stone fruit, melting tannins, the full body and its long finish perfect the pleasure that the beef tartare and the wine offer together.  

Albariño Embaixador 2017, Attis Bodegas y Viñedo, Rías Baixas, Spain

Stefanie Hehn, a native of Franconia, works as head sommelière at the five-star hotel The Fontenay in Hamburg and passed the Master Sommeliére exam in 2020. She recommends a Spanish Albariño with the beef tartare. 

This Albariño from Attis Bodegas y Viñedo comes from the single vineyard Embaixador. It smells intensely and refreshingly of grapefruit, apricots and apple blossom. Subtle notes of hop blossom and seaweed give it even more complexity on the nose. This aroma reflects the cool location, as the Val do Salnes region in the Rias Beixas is a headland jutting into the Atlantic. Such wines always carry cool freshness of the ocean. The grapes come from a plot with vines that are about 60 years old, which produces particularly small berries. On the palate, it is refreshingly salty and mineral and through a longer time on the fine lees, it shows itself with a creamy texture and special depth. A refreshingly appetising combination.  

Dürnsteiner Kellerberg 2006, F.X. Pichler, Wachau, Austria

Markus Gould, who was Falstaff Sommelier of the Year in Austria in 2020, works at the Viennese wine restaurant Heunisch & Erben where you can enjoy around 100 wines by the glass. As a wine pairing, he recommends a Grüner Veltliner from the Wachau.

A secret weapon that always works with raw beef is mature Grüner Veltliner of the somewhat richer category, i.e. preferably from the warmer east side of the Wachau, from the Heiligenstein in Kamptal or from the loess soils of the Wagram. The tobacco-scented, creamy texture, together with the mature notes can also stand up to the whisky touch in this recipe. As a representative of all the others, I mention here F.X. Pichler's "Dürnsteiner Kellerberg" 2006, Heinz Weixelbaum's first vintage "Anno Dazumal" 2009 and Johannes Hirsch's "Kammerner Lamm" 2005.

Viña Tondonia Gran Reserva Rosado 2010, López de Heredia, Rioja, Spain

After several stations in top international gastronomy, Austrian-born Moritz Dresing is head sommelier for the five renowned restaurants of the Swiss luxury hotel The Chedi Andermatt. He combines a mature rosé with the beef tartare

The Gran Reserva Rosado from López de Heredia is a rosé wine in a class of its own, which is aged for four years in oak barrels. This gives the wine a smoky, spicy aroma and a wonderful herbal savouriness. A great combination that highlights all the components of the dish without being too overbearing. 


Rathfinny Blanc de Noir 2015, Rathfinny Estate, Sussex, England

Austrian-born Master Sommelier Stefan Neumann has been director of wine at the London restaurant Dinner by Heston Blumenthal at the Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park since 2018. He uses an English Blanc de Noirs to accompany the tartare. 

When I think of this dish, Mr Bean immediately springs to mind. My second, probably better, thought is of a great Blanc de Noirs, in this case an English one from Rathfinny Estate in Sussex. The subtle spicy notes and ginger flavours paired with one of the finest and most delicate bubbles you could wish for, this wonder boy goes great with the tartare. Pure harmony.