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The rules for picking a wine to pair with steak are like any food pairing rules. Either you want to go for something that will stand up to the steak, with strong tannins and deep, rich flavors. Or you want to choose a wine that will act as a contrast to it, with bright acidity and a lean body to cut through the fat and cleanse the palate. Five of our picks, after the jump.

If a juicy, fatty steak can pair with three gin martinis just as well as with a bottle of big, oaky red, it’s clearly a more versatile meal than it gets credit for. The picture of the steakhouse dinner, with fat executives ordering $300 bottles of Barolo and California Cabernet, certainly is accurate. It’s probably happening somewhere in this country right now and with good reason: those wines are made for grilled meat. But for the rest of us, the biggest, ballsiest wine on the menu isn’t always an option. You might want to go for something more approachable, more affordable, or just less conventional for fun’s sake.

The rules for picking a wine to pair with steak are like any food pairing rules. Either you want to go for something that will stand up to the steak, with strong tannins and deep, rich flavors. Or you want to choose a wine that will act as a contrast to it, with bright acidity and a lean body to cut through the fat and cleanse the palate. See where we’re going with this? That’s right: try pairing your steak with bubbly. A lot of people will say you’re crazy, but they just don’t know how to have fun. Go for a powerful, complex blanc de noirs. Here are five more options for matching wine to steak:

1. Natalino Del Prete “Anne” Negroamaro 2010, Puglia
Negroamaro means “black-bitter,” and while the wine is certainly dark in color, it’s not really bitter at all. This one is made from grapes grown on 70-year-old vines without the use of any pesticides or herbicides and fermented naturally. It’s bottled unfiltered for a beautifully textured mouthfeel to go with the dark fruit, spice and funky earth notes the wine shows. The Wine Hut, $19

2. Chono Reserva Carménère 2011, Chile
A hearty Bordeaux is another quintessential steak wine. But with Bordeaux prices out of reach for many of us, you might opt to look at a Chilean Carménère instead. The grape is native to the famous French wine region, but has flourished in Chile. Chono farms its grapes organically to produce a deep, rich Carménère with just a hint of spice backing up the pure fruit flavors coming through. Astor Wines, $12

3. Copain Tous Ensemble Syrah 2010, Sonoma
We all know California makes powerhouse Cabs. But its cool-climate Syrahs are also something to crow about. Based in the Russian River Valley, Copain turns out a harmonious Syrah made in the northern Rhône style. It’s elegant and savory, balancing floral and mineral character, with a hint of smoked sausage at the finish. JJ Buckley Fine Wines, $22

4. Bodegas Muga Reserva 2008, Rioja
Well aged tempranillo is another go-to pairing for grilled, marbled beef. This typical Rioja blend of mostly tempranillo, some garnacha and dashes of mazuelo and graciano from the heralded house of Muga is full of dark brooding fruit, vanilla and cocoa notes, and a hint of the herbaceous. It’s got a solid structure, with assertive tannins that aren’t overbearingly grippy. K&L Wine Merchants, $22

5. Domaine du Traginer Collioure Rouge 2009, Languedoc-Roussillon
There is a descriptor used in wine that we love: animal. Some people say ‘barnyard,’ but we prefer the Franco-Latin term that communicates just what it might taste like to lick the flank of living, breathing horse – only, not really. This Roussillon blend has plenty of ripe and tart forest fruit, spice and floral notes, plus that funky animal quality that just lends itself so well to steak. Chambers Street Wines, $19

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