Where’s the Beef? | Take Your Wine Out for Dinner

In these times of ethical eating, global warming concerns, and an explosion of vegetarianism, you might think that the era of grass-fed beef, served by a Gaucho at a classic Argentinian restaurant may be over. Think again!


The Argentine beef industry and the various restaurants around the globe that support it are alive and well. They may have had to morph from a flintstone-sized slab of meat to a more refined, varied plate, but with that mission accomplished, the restaurants are emerging from COVID intact. 


We know what you’re thinking. This is Canada and we, too, have some of the best beef in the world. No question! Alberta beef in particular is famous worldwide. Again, grass-fed is king and results in a lower fat content that people are eating up – pun intended. Another stand out is Alberta raised Wagyu beef. This Japanese heritage breed made its way to our shores in the 90s and is hugely popular with professional and home chefs alike. 


Now to the important part. Wine pairing. If you haven’t tried it already, make a point of having a wine from the same country/region as the food you are eating. This matching of ‘terroir’, in some magical way, enhances both the wine and the food. The next time you order Argentinian beef, make sure to take along one of your heavy, South American reds.


Equally effective in matching your meal to your wine is weight. By this we mean the body of the wine compared to the profile of the food. Beef is no shrinking violet. It stands up well to a heavy red from anywhere. Try a beefy Cabernet Sauvignon from Chile next time you have Alberta beef on your plate. Not only will it complement your dish, it will be very easy on your pocketbook. 


Let’s address the comment above referring to taking one of your own bottles to the restaurant with you. Bring your own bottle/booze/wine (BYOB, BYOW) is an option available at a great many great restaurants across the country, however, rarely and sadly used. Most restaurant liquor licenses allow them to allow you to bring your own wine, provided it is commercially made and purchased from a legitimate source (no home brew – sorry). Most will charge a fee for opening the bottle for you at the table. This is referred to as the ‘corkage fee’. Some, particularly in Quebec, do it for free. The standard markup for a wine by the restaurant is 200 – 300% of the original cost to them. The corkage helps to offset this legitimate profit. The highest we’ve ever seen is $45 per bottle, but the majority are in the $20 range. Think about it. One of your favourite Opimian wines in the $30 range would typically cost $60 – 90 at a restaurant. Take it there yourself, pay the $20 corkage and your total cost is only $50. Take one of your super-premium wines from Collector’s Corner and the savings are even more substantial.


Here’s an example. One of Opimian’s Managing Directors, Michael Lutzmann, took a bottle of St. Emilion Grand Cru to Auberge du Pommier in Toronto. Corkage fee: $45. The bottle of Château Daugay was purchased for $67. A similar bottle on the wine list was $195. Even with the corkage fee, the total cost to Michael was half that of a younger wine on the list.