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Wagyu & Wine — The Perfect Pair

Mayura Station in South Australia’s Limestone Coast didn’t set out to capitalise on its close proximity to the Coonawarra – red meat and red wine are the perfect pairing after all.

Cattle have been running on the station since 1845, long before the first Cabernet vines were planted. The fact that the region became famous for Cabernet was just a happy coincidence said the current owners, the de Bruin family.

“Our family purchased the historic homestead and about 3000ha of the original station in the 1980s,” Scott de Bruin says. “We were very proud to become custodians of one of South Australia’s first pastoral leases.”

The de Bruin family could have elected to graze Shorthorns or Herefords or Angas cattle like so many other Limestone Coast producers. But they took an entrepreneurial risk and imported one of Australia’s first full-bred Wagyu herds from Japan in 1998.

Scott’s father Adrian had travelled to Japan and been amazed by the tenderness of the native Wagyu breed and believed it would take off in Australia.

A couple of decades later and Mayura Wagyu is now one of the best-known premium beef brands in the world, with restaurants in Hong Kong, China, Singapore, Dubai and Taiwan paying anything from $600 to $1000/kg for prime cuts.

Why Wagyu?

Why is Wagyu better than a standard sirloin that you can buy at your local butcher for $10/kg?

“Wagyu cattle are genetically disposed to yield a higher percentage of omega 3/omega 6 fats which means there is a much higher level of marbling,” Scott says.

“Apart from their genetic make-up the beef is the result of very careful management – up to 300 days grass grazing with another 300 days on a specially prepared grain diet which includes – of all things – chocolate for a unique flavour.

“This careful regime creates a steak that is exceptionally tender and juicy with greater richness and depth of flavour than other meat. It is often described as buttery or nutty in flavour and the texture is unrivalled.

“It is expensive to produce but it is worth it when you taste it. Our cattle are fed a traditional slow growth diet that improves meat texture and our beef is HGP and antibiotic free.”

The marbling you see in Wagyu beef is measured by a scoring system from one to nine and Mayura Wagyu has taken this quality system one step further with a branded labelling system: Mayura Gold Label (Marble Score 6-7 and sold mainly in Australia), Mayura Platinum Label (Marble Score 8 or 9) and the absolute premium Mayura Signature label (Marble Score 9).

If Mayura’s approach to producing and branding premium meat is sounding more and more like the various labels associated with premium wine you won’t be surprised to find that Scott opened a Wagyu “cellar door” – The Mayura Station Tasting Room – on the property near Millicent in 2010.

It’s been a tourism hit for the region, and Head Chef Mark Wright’s intimate tasting degustations on Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings are booked out well in advance. Lunches can also be arranged for groups of 10 or more.

Cooking the Best Wagyu

So how does Mark recommend cooking a Wagyu steak?

“Although cooking steak is generally done by touch, I can wholeheartedly say that 52.5C is the best baseline tested temperature for Mayura Full Blood Wagyu.

This, in general terms, represents a medium rare steak that leans slightly to the side of rare. The reason we can serve Mayura Full Blood Wagyu at this temperature is due to the quality of the genetics, which impacts on the melting point of the intra-muscular fat (marbling). The marbling of Mayura Full Blood Wagyu has an exceptionally low melting point. In terms of cooking the ‘perfect’ steak, we need to focus on some simplicities.

1 - Allow your Mayura Full Blood Wagyu Steak to sit at room temperature for at least 1 hour, covered with a clean cloth. A steak that has the fridge chill dissipated will cook more evenly.

2 - Brush your Mayura Steak with rendered Mayura Wagyu fat and liberally sprinkle with Murray River pink salt.

3 - On a high heat, sear all sides until chestnut brown so the steak develops a wonderful flavour crust. I love to use the rendered Wagyu fat as it enhances the flavour of the steak.

4 - For thick steaks, place the steak on a ‘cake rack’ and gently roast through a fan forced oven until the internal temperature reaches 48.5C (cooking time will vary based on thickness of steak).

5 - Remove from the oven and rest the steak in a warm place. You can cover with a clean cloth if necessary. The aim is for the steak to ‘rest up’ to the desired temperature of 52.5C.

6 - Serve your steak, safe in the knowledge that it is cooked beautifully.

Which Wine with Your Wagyu

Yalumba’s Coonawarra winemaker Natalie Cleghorn loves nothing more than a Mayura Wagyu steak, cooked expertly by Mark at his bench in The Mayura Station Tasting Room.

So which wines does she think work best with this prince of meats?

“Not surprisingly I believe Coonawarra Cabernet is the perfect pairing with Wagyu,” Natalie says.

“Firstly it is grown and produced just a few kilometres away from Mayura in the same climate, on similar soils. That’s the ultimate in regionality.

“But Coonawarra Cabernet is a perfect pairing with Wagyu because it has such a defined tannin structure to cut through those rich flavours and it is complex without being overpowering.

“I think the rich, earthy, robust flavours of Mayura Gold label Wagyu are well matched to Yalumba’s The Cigar Cabernet Sauvignon.

“This wine has a lot of typical Coonawarra Cabernet red and blackcurrants with hints of chocolate and the tannin and acid structure provides grip which you need with such a juicy steak.”

She says the Platinum Label Wagyu which is described in the Mayura tasting notes as “well balanced, smooth, juicy and tender” deserves a wine with a step up in complexity.

“I recommend Yalumba The Menzies Cabernet Sauvignon which is elegant yet powerful with a robust tannin profile that offsets the richness of the meat,” she says.

The Mayura Wagyu Signature Label, which is in very limited supply in Australia, is described in the tasting notes as complex and integrated “extremely rich with butter and nutty flavours and silky smooth.

Natalie says a steak such as The Signature deserves an equally prestigious and luxurious red wine.

The Caley Cabernet Shiraz is not just Yalumba’s flagship red wine but it is also the pinnacle of our Cabernet-Shiraz winemaking history,” Natalie says. “This the ultimate red wine for Mayura Wagyu because the richness of the Barossa Shiraz is balanced by the tannin structure and acidity of the Coonawarra Cabernet.”

Way to Go

Wagyu is one of the precious ingredients that is best left to a professional chef. So why not take a trip to the Coonawarra (there are regular flights from Melbourne, Sydney and Adelaide to Mount Gambier) and shout yourself dinner at The Mayura Station Tasting Room.

Where to stay? We have our very own two-bedroom guesthouse accommodation, Yalumba ‘The Menzies Retreat’, with its polished floorboards, galley kitchen and vineyard views is available for Limestone Coast weekenders.

Yalumba & Mayura Station present two special dinners for the 2013 vintage release of The Caley Cabernet Shiraz.

Acknowledging the Coonawarra contribution to Yalumba’s The Caley Cabernet Shiraz, we will be pairing the 2013 vintage with Mayura Wagyu beef from the Limestone Coast.

Six exquisite courses will be prepared by Mayura Station Chef Mark Wright, and expertly paired with our finest wines at one of two intimate dinners in Sydney and Limestone Coast.

Reserve your place at the table today.