Pastrami And Wine: Do They Pair Up?

Many people are familiar with the idea of, and some of the philosophy behind, wine pairings. But have you tried pairing wine with pastrami? The idea of having pastrami on rye with a glass of wine probably isn't something many people consider. But you should. Here's why it works.

Proof that Opposites Attract

When it comes to finding a wine for your pastrami, or pastrami-centric dish, you have to start with red. Red wine has traditionally gone with meat, specifically red meat. This is because red wines work at the opposite end of the taste spectrum from red meats.

Red wine has a high level of dry tasting tannins (astringency). Red meat has more of a "slippery" (fatty) taste to it. So the dry and the slippery meet somewhere in the middle and cancel out the worst aspects of each other. In addition, a general rule for the red wine and red meat connection is to pair lighter reds with leaner meats. Darker reds go with richer or fattier cuts.

But What About Pastrami?

Traditionally, pastrami starts its eventual journey to your stomach as a cut of brisket. Pastrami is considered mostly lean. So that means you will need to pair your Rachel with a lighter red. However, the process used to create pastrami lends other flavors and textures to the meat that set it apart from other cuts and deli meats.

  • The brisket meat is cured in brine (heavy on the salt).
  • The meat receives a heavy coating of spices (heavy on flavor).
  • The meat goes through a smoking process (even more, smoky flavor).
  • The process causes the connective tissue to gel (heavy on saturated fat).

These things make pastrami unique. These are also the things that will cause you to choose your red a little more carefully. Pastrami alone can have a various tastes. When used as a part of a larger meal, you may have to experiment with your reds.

Ideas for Getting Started with Reds

Pinot noirs and Gamay varieties are light reds that go with very lean cuts of pastrami. Also, if your pastrami accompanies other things, such as cheeses or starches, then the lighter wine will pair well with the meal as a whole.

Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, and Zinfandel varieties are fuller of body, but work well with cured, smoked meats. They work harder when they're up against those additional spices and flavors.

If you enjoy pastrami, and you enjoy wine, feel free to have fun trying different combinations. If you've never enjoyed a glass with your favorite pastrami dish, you may give your palate a fresh and pleasant surprise. If you work at a restaurant or counter that serves pastrami dishes, consider creating some wine pairings for people to try.