Although beer might be the default beverage when it comes to cooking out and grilling, a well-paired glass of wine can elevate those bold BBQ flavors we love this time of year.
According to Jennifer McDonald of Jenny Dawn Cellars and Marvina Robinson, founder of Stuyvesant Champagne, the right wine can be the perfect partner for barbecue, helping to cut through all of the umami flavors and high fats in grilled meats. The tannins and acid in red wines will also help balance out all of those savory, tangy BBQ sauce flavors, while white wines will complement grilled fish, salads, and lighter fare.
To help us tackle wine selections for our next barbecue adventure, we have shared some helpful tips on pairing wine with backyard barbecue favorites and more
According to McDonald, a Sonoma Valley Chardonnay is a great barbecue wine. Bright and crisp with just a touch of creamy notes from French oak, look for flavors of green apple, pear and zesty citrus on the palate. She says it makes a great partner for grilled shrimp and avocado salad, as well as chicken, shrimp, or fish on the grill.
If you’re going for that well-marbled steak, burgers, or stuffed Portobello mushrooms, McDonald recommends a big, bold Cabernet from Paso Robles AVA in California, an area known for exceptional vineyards. The weather and terroir in the region lends to flavors of black cherry, pomegranate, and blackberry, as well as aromas of dark chocolate, olives and herbs. It’s earthy and complex, which pairs well with the umami flavors of the beef.
If you’re grilling seafood, chicken, or pork chops like these, with a miso curry glaze, Robinson says to try pairing it with a high acid wine like a German Riesling. The simple yet juicy flavors of apple, lemon, and citrus will complement the flavors in the dish, as well as enhance spicy flavors. Our pick: Clare Wine Co Riesling.
Robinson recommends pairing seafood dishes and salads with a bright, grassy white like a sustainably made Sauvignon Blanc. With its bright, citrus aromas and tropical flavors along with a crisp finish, she explains the wine is delicious with freshly grilled romaine hearts with Caesar dressing, shrimp kebabs, lemon butter chicken and more. Try Schubert Sauvignon Blanc Estate with grilled citrus shrimp skewers.
According to McDonald, you can’t go wrong pairing sweet and spicy barbecue with an equally bold wine like Malbec, like Benegas Ataliva Malbec. With flavors of black cherry, plums, and spice, along with high tannins, Malbecs are a great match for grilled beef like brisket or steak. Jennifer says try this secret chef trick: add a little dry red wine to store bought barbecue sauce for extra pizazz!
McDonald says if you’re serving up sausages, ribs, and kielbasa, reach for a spicy, fruity red with enough body to stand up to those big, bold flavors. Valley of the Moon Zinfandel from California’s Sonoma County is full-bodied, but with soft tannins. Flavors of raspberries, black pepper, and leather lead up to a smooth finish.
This is your go-to summer white wine, as it’s light crisp body and flavors of citrus and pineapple will pair with a variety of lighter grilled foods. Robinson explains that seafood is a brilliant partner for Pinot Grigio like Dantello Pinot Grigio, with the long, crisp finish pairing with scallops, white fish, and even grilled peaches or pineapple. It also makes an amazing white sangria, if you don’t just finish the bottle all by itself.
Spicy dishes call for a bright, high acid white wine. Robinson says she loves pairing Chenin Blanc with barbecue, as the aromatics in the wine will complement all of the sweet, sour, and spicy flavors you’ll likely have going on. With tropical flavors of guava, ripe peach, and pineapple aromas, along with crisp minerality, this is the perfect wine for Caribbean fare like jerk shrimp pasta, spicy shrimp kabobs, and mango glazed pork chops. We love Logis de Bray Anjou Blanc Chenin Blanc.