Traditional Hungarian Beef Goulash is a stew/soup consisting of tender chunks of beef, potatoes, onions and other vegetables, and spiced with paprika. Recipes vary, however, Goulash in stew form is often served over egg noodles. Spicy and savoury, Goulash pairs best with lighter style red wines with high acidity, such as Pinot Noir, Zinfandel, Zweigelt, Côtes du Rhône, St. Laurent, or Blaufränkisch. For even spicier Goulash dishes with some fire to it, reach for an off-dry Riesling or Gewurztraminer.
Zweigelt & Goulash Pairing
Zweigelt is an Austrian red wine that tart, fruity, and bright red wine with cherry, raspberry, pepper, and chocolate flavours. The high acidity and crispness of Zweigelt bring down the spice factor of your Beef Goulash, allowing you to enjoy all of the flavours of the dish without overcrowding your palate. Zweigelt fruity flavours also offer a nice counterbalance to the savoury and earthy Goulash flavours.
In Hungary, Goulash is often served with local red wines, which might be difficult to acquire elsewhere in the world. Thus, the next best thing is a red wine from a nearby neighbour like Austria, where Zweigelt and Blaufränkisch, which we mention below, are similar to the reds you’ll find in Hungary.
Blaufränkisch & Beef Goulash Pairing
Blaufränkisch is an Austrian red wine full of rich blackberry and black cherry flavours along with mocha and peppery notes. Frisky with acidity, Blaufränkisch swoops in and puts out some of the fire found in the paprika and pepper that seasons your Goulash. With Goulash, there are so many flavours bouncing around that you want to keep your wine as simple as possible. Otherwise, you’ll overcrowd your tastebuds. With Blaufränkisch being so light and fruity, you’re guaranteed a red wine that knows its limits and won’t overstay its welcome.
Pinot Noir & Hungarian Goulash Pairing
Pinot Noir is a light and fruity red wine that is often crisp in acidity but is also well known for having an earthy funk. Notes of strawberry, cherry and raspberry are often the first thing you’ll notice when enjoying a glass of Pinot Noir. However, if you take a nice deep whiff of this delicious red wine, you might discover smells of forest floor or barnyard. The earthiness of Pinot Noir complements the root vegetables in your Goulash, while the brisk fruity flavours offer a refreshing contrast.
Rioja Crianza & Goulash Pairing
Rioja is a medium-bodied Spanish red wine with lovey berry flavours, a citrus tang, and a touch of earthiness. The earthiness, along with the raspberry and cherry flavours of Rioja, brings out the pepper and paprika notes of this classic Hungarian dish without overcrowding the palate. Rioja Crianza only sees a year or so of ageing in a used oak cask, which makes it perfect for everyday drinking.
Riesling & Spicy Goulash Pairing
Light and fruity red ones are my number one choice for Hungarian Goulash as the fruity berry flavours saddle up with the dish’s beefiness better than the citrus flavours white wines offer. If your Goulash is fiery hot with spice, or you prefer white wines over red, Riesling is the wine to reach for. Boisterous with acidity and citrus flavours of lemon and lime, Riesling nearly pairs up with anything.
With Riesling, you’ll rarely complement any flavours found in Goulash. However, the citrus flavours do offer plenty of refreshment against the spices found in the dish. The acidity of Riesling also accentuates the vegetable notes found in Goulash, allowing you to appreciate all the flavours of this Hungarian staple. With Goulash, for spicy versions, stick to an off-dry Riesling, which has a touch of sweetness to counterbalance the heat of the spice. For not so spicy Goulash, a dry Riesling will do the trick.
Zinfandel & American Goulash Pairing
American Goulash, or American Chop Suey, is a completely different beast than your traditional styled Goulash in terms of ingredients. Chock full of tomato sauce, beef and macaroni noodles, American Goulash, is pure comfort food and requires red wines that are high in acidity such as Zinfandel, Pinot Noir, Chianti, Barbera and Beaujolais.
Zinfandel is a very American wine, in that it’s slightly sweet and bold in its fruity flavours, which makes it my number one choice for pairing up with American Goulash. The jammy flavours offer a nice contrast to the beefiness. At the same time, the lack of tannin in the wine ensures it remains fruity rather than metallic, which often happens when tannin clashes with the acidity of tomatoes.
Chianti & American Goulash Pairing
Chianti is an Italian red wine that is light, fruity and rustic with notes of herbs and earthiness. I love Chianti because it takes a purely American dish like American Goulash and adds its Italian flair to it as its notes of herbs and earthiness. Meanwhile, Chianti’s tannin is grippy enough to soften up when the beefy proteins and fats strike it, while the acidity of the wine dance along with the tart tomato flavours.