The Best Wines for your Summer BBQ
Warm summer nights make a great excuse for outdoor gatherings, and consuming good food and wine with friends. Grilled and smoked foods have complex, rich, smoky flavor, pairing wines to match can take thought.
Focus on the natural flavors of the food; keep the spices simple, and let the smokiness shine. Highlight complementary tones, and counterpoints with your wine pairing to bring out the best in the wine and food. If the food is fatty, having a wine with a higher acidity level, or tannins, will act in contrast, and cleanse the palate; while a rich, high alcohol content wine will highlight the full flavor and intensity of your food. When you discover the best pairings for smoked food at its simplest, then you have a base to branch out from when you start to play with spices and sauces.
Here are some suggestions we think make the perfect pairing for simple grilled foods:
Beef and Buffalo
Beef or buffalo burgers and steaks with big flavor call for big wine. Syrah, Caber-net (Franc or Sauvignon), and Zinfandel (red- not pink) are especially good matches. Big jammy flavors with dark berry tones and full tannins are a nice complement to the full flavor of grilled beef or buffalo.
A good wine to try is the Owen Roe Ex Ubris Syrah 2012
Game meats such as venison, yak, and lamb, pair well with Grenache, Bor-deaux, Nebbiolo, Sangiovese, and earthy Pinot Noir. The musky tones in these varieties complement the gaminess of the meat, while the raspberry and cranber-ry tones give a mouthwatering sweetness.
Grilled pork has great flexibility and can partner with a variety of wines, depend-ing on the cut and preparation. Pulled pork or ribs do well with a Tempranillo, Barbera or Merlot. Pork chops or loin are heavenly with a crisp, dry Rosé, Pinot Noir or Beaujolais. Lean cuts would pair nicely with white wines, such as a Chablis, Pinot Blanc, Chardonnay, Soave or Riesling.
Hot dogs and sausages are surprisingly brilliant with wine. Try a sparkling variety! The juicy, fatty sausage benefits from the effervescent bubbles, sweetness and balanced acidity of Champagnes, Prosecco, Cava and other Sparkling Wines. Rosé is also a good choice!
Game birds like duck, goose, and pheasant naturally pair with Pinot Noir, Mourvédre, Rhone blend, Rosé and Gewürztraminer. Gewürztraminer, or “off dry” Rieslings are especially fantastic choices if the bird has an apple, quince or orange based sauce.
Game birds tend to be earthy in flavor with lots of fat so they benefit from sweetness and earthiness.
Grilled chicken or quail allows you to pair with almost anything. We love a white pairing of Viognier, Sauvignon Blanc, White Cots du Rhône, or Oaked Chardonnay.
The herbaceous and creamy flavors of these wines with lovely fruit create a nice contrast to the mildness of the meat. Dry Rosé or a light bodied red such as Pinot would also be well matched.
Grilled shellfish such as shrimp, muscles, oysters, and scallops are another perfect partner for Sparkling Brut varieties of wine. Vino Verde, Albarino, Pinot Gris and Unoaked Chardonnay are also good matches.
Wines with good acidity and citrus tones are natural pairings to highlight the flavors of these foods and not overwhelm them.
Try: Pol Roger Brut
Seafood can vary in taste profile, so it’s especially important to take note of taste, texture and flavor. Remember that big flavored food can handle big wine, deli-cate tastes benefit from light, subtle wines.
Big, salty fish stand up to a Pinot Noir, Sangiovese or Grenache. Medium textured fish pair well with Rose, Semillon, or Sauvignon Blanc. Mild, meaty fish partner well with Chardonnay, White Bordeaux, and Pinot Blanc. Delicate, light flaky fish love White Burgundy, Muscadet, Verdejo and Unoaked Chardonnay.
Pairing wine with vegetables is a bit like pairing Seafood and the same rules apply. You have great flexibility in this area. Generally light to medium bodied wines work best with veggies.
This is a brief introductory guide to pairing grilled food and wine and we hope you find it useful. It just scratches the surface on a complex topic. When you throw in spices, rubs and marinades the game changes.
What are some of your favorite wine pairings for barbecued food? We’d love to hear from you! If you have questions, we’d love to help!