Filet Mignon is a tender but lean cut of meat that is focused less on flavour and more on texture. With a rich and buttery texture, but subtle beefy flavours, Filet Mignon pairs best with red wines that showcase soft tannins such as mature Cabernet Sauvignon, Bordeaux, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Rioja Reserva and Chianti Classico. When seeking these wines out, aim for reds that are less fruit-forward, and deliver earthy flavours such as mushroom, cigar box, pencil lead, tobacco, or leather.
Bordeaux & Filet Mignon Pairing
I’m hesitant to recommend a Bordeaux with Filet Mignon, just because there’s a lot to unload with what Bordeaux is before I can even recommend it. If you find that perfect Bordeaux, however, I feel you could find the best match for your Filet Mignon.
Bordeaux, in general, is meant to be a food-friendly wine as it’s a blend of five grapes, where the most dominant grapes tend to be either Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon. Bordeaux is sold in different tiers, where the most expensive bottles feature the best grapes, and the budget-friendly bottles feature the average grapes. In theory, you could buy a budget-friendly Bordeaux and pair it with Filet Mignon, and the wine will taste just fine, but I don’t think it would knock your socks off.
For the best possible experience, you’ll want a pricier Bordeaux which has been matured, and that makes it even more pricier. The Bordeaux will need to be mature, as the tannin will require softening. This will require you sitting on a bottle for years, or decades, or purchasing an aged bottle at the restaurant. Either way, if you want to maximize your experience, it will require some knowledge by you or the wine sommelier to find that perfect bottle.
A softer tannin Bordeaux is a must, as when the wine is young, the tannin will destroy the rich, buttery texture of Filet Mignon, making for a poor pairing. Fully mature, Bordeaux will display a velvety texture that complements the mouthfeel of Filet Mignon perfectly. The fruity nature of the wine will also be toned down, and complex layers of mocha, menthol, pencil shavings and leather add plenty of character to the pairing.
Merlot & Filet Mignon Pairing
Merlot tends to be softer than a Cabernet Sauvignon, but you’ll still want to select either an aged, or a medium-bodied Merlot to pair up with your Filet Mignon. What I love about Merlot is its chocolate and cherry flavours. The cherry notes come off as refreshing and bright when stacked up against Filet Mignon, while the chocolate flavours complement the subtle beef flavours.
Cabernet Sauvignon & Filet Mignon Pairing
You’ll definitely want an aged Cabernet Sauvignon for this pairing to work, as young Cabernet Sauvignon packs a grippy tannin bite that will steal away the Filet Mignon’s delicate thunder. When mature, Cabernet Sauvignon will have a plush and elegant texture, that matches the decadent mouth feel of filet mignon. Restrained notes of mocha, blackberry, cherry and sandalwood should shine through, making for a memorable dining experience.
The issue with a mature Cabernet Sauvignon is that you will either have to age it yourself or pay a hefty price at a restaurant for a bottle where the owners have cellared it for years themselves. You’ll also have to seek out the right style of Cabernet Sauvignon, where the wine isn’t too oak-driven or fruity so that the subtle filet mignon flavours aren’t destroyed by those dominant flavours.
Pinot Noir & Filet Mignon Pairing
If you aren’t too schooled in the world of wine, Pinot Noir might be the wine to reach for with a Filet Mignon. All of the other wines featured here require ageing or some knowledge about the wine’s style. Pinot Noir, on the other hand, already comes out of the gate featuring light and fruity notes of strawberry and cherry, which won’t crush those buttery Filet Mignon flavours.
Pinot Noir is also earthy. California Pinot Noir tends to feature notes of forest floor, and a France Burgundy (which is Pinot Noir when the wine is red) is more barnyardy. These notes might sound off-putting, but they add complexity and elegance to the wine, and thus the pairing.
Rioja Reserva & Filet Mignon Pairing
Rioja Reserva or Gran Reserva are Spanish red wines that, when fully matured, will have softened but velvety-textured tannins that will complement the buttery texture of your Filet Mignon. The fruitiness of the wine, when mature, is toned down, and interesting notes of cigar box, leather and mushroom come forward, which add their own flair to the mix.
The main difference between Rioja Reserva and Gran Reserva is that Gran Reserva Rioja isn’t made every year, as it is only made during spectacular growing seasons. Gran Reserva is also aged longer and will always be a bit more pricier than Rioja Reserva due to its rarity. While Gran Reserva will pair up with Filet Mignon when the wine has fully matured, you might have to cellar the bottle for a few years first.