Beer might be the traditional drink for a hot day over the coals, but we believe that wine and grill food can make amazing pairings!
With its various textures and smoky aromas, grill food’s variety of flavors can be every bit as complex as wine: so why not put them together? We’ve taken 10 of our favorite wine and grill food pairings to get you started.
Grab your tongs and your corkscrew, and let’s get started!
Hot Dog with Mustard and Sauerkraut
On a list of classics, the good ole American hot dog stands shoulders above the rest. And while there are a ton of, uh… unique ways to dress a dog (looking at you, Chicago), we think the true classic is mustard and sauerkraut.
What Wine to Pick: Riesling.
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Why it Works: The real tough part here is the acid in that sauerkraut. And the best way to combat one German classic’s acidity is with another German classic: Riesling. And you’ve still got options with this wine and grill pairing.
Are you using a spicier mustard? Consider something with a little sweetness to cut down on that heat. Grilling up some of those huge, expensive dogs? Maybe something a little drier to complement that heavy flavor. Either way, the acid is doing its job.
Look: vegetables always taste better on the grill. I don’t make the rules! And one of the all-time best is a big ear of corn. It’s good on the side and it’s good as the main dish. Vegetarians rejoice: you don’t need to fear the grill!
What Wine to Pick: Chardonnay
Why it Works: A gold and buttery crowd-pleaser with the potential for some crisp hints of sweetness? I don’t know if I’m talking about the corn or the wine here, and that’s why it works.
A Chardonnay with some oak aging is going to complement the taste buds of those of us who prefer a buttery ear. And something a little more steely and sharp is perfect for anyone who focuses on that natural, crunchy sweetness.
With that combination of deep sea saltiness and fire-charred earthiness, grilled oysters are more than a little unique. But that doesn’t make them hard to pair with wine.
What Wine to Pick: Albariño
Why it Works: Nothing goes better with shellfish than a nice squeeze of lemon. And when it comes to pairing oysters on the grill and wine, Albariño offers exactly that.
Those high notes of citrus play off of the natural flavors, while mixing in a complementary bit of salinity. Plus, that crisp acidity contrasts wonderfully with the dense, gooey texture of an oyster.
When you want a hot dog with some real weight to it, you’ve got to go to the bratwurst. Whether you put it on a bun or not, it’s a total mainstay at grills and barbecues all over the country.
What Wine to Pick: Zweigelt
Why it Works: This Austrian red isn’t what you’d expect. It tastes great served chilled and zings with acidity (and sometimes spritz) which does wonders to cut through all that sausage-y fat and those caramelized onions on the side.
For red wines, it’s on the lighter side, but that’s exactly what we all want on a hot summer’s night.
Portobello Mushroom Steaks
It’s more than just a meatless alternative, people. Portobello steaks have a delicious earthy flavor alongside a hearty texture.
What Wine to Pick: Pinot Noir
Why it Works: Pinot is known for a “damp forest floor” aroma, and it’s a perfect complement to mushrooms of any stripe.
The lighter body avoids overpowering the other, more subtle flavors of a Portobello, and red berry notes lighten the entire experience with fruitiness.
Consider a Pinot from a cooler climate, as it’s more likely to display those earthy flavors without being overly powerful in the fruit department.
Typically you’ll find these skewers sporting peppers, tomatoes, onions, mushrooms, and (of course) beef. It’s a great way to get a whole lot of flavors in one sitting.
What Wine to Pick: Carménère
Why it Works: First and foremost, the full body of a Carménère going to pair beautifully with grilled beef.
But beyond that, you’re going to get those peppery, pyrazine-filled (bell pepper!) notes that will only enhance the vegetal flavors already on the kabob.
Dark fruit notes will also add some juicier pop to what is a heavy, earthy dish.
One of the all-time greats. We’ve covered the various incarnations of burgers and the best wines to pair with them, but let’s cover the classic cheeseburger with lettuce, tomato, and onions.
What Wine to Pick: Sangiovese
Why it Works: It doesn’t matter how many veggies you load it down with: the main appeal of a cheeseburger is grease and fat. And a great way to cut through that is with a high tannin red wine like Sangiovese.
Those tannins will scrape your palate clean, while the bold body of the wine will stand up to the big, salty flavors of your average burger.
What Wine to Pick: Lambrusco Secco
Why it Works: Chicken and white wine is a common enough combination, but chicken that’s been grilled has a deeper, smokier flavor. And that requires a wine with a little more body to it.
With its deeper body and red fruit notes, a dry Lambrusco adds flavor and pizzazz to grilled chicken without letting the char of the grill overpower it.
Plus, subtle, floral notes complement the bird in a big way.
Whether cooked in foil or placed directly on the grill, an open flame really enhances the already bold flavors of salmon.
What Wine to Pick: Sangiovese Rosé
Why it Works: A bolder fish requires a bolder wine. And a Sangiovese-based rosé wine has just the right level of body and flavor to stand up to salmon.
Cherry and spice notes will add an exotic layer of flavor, and its acidity will cut through the heavier nature of this particular fish.
The gold medalist of all red meat dinners, grilled steak isn’t as common as you’d think. But when handled well, it can be truly amazing.
What Wine to Pick: Cabernet Sauvignon
Why it Works: The odds are, you already know exactly why this works. The big, bold flavor of the meat and seasoning needs a wine to match, and a California Cabernet is exactly what the doctor (the beef doctor?) ordered for just this occasion.
High tannins are going to scrape the mouth clean, and deep, black fruit flavors complement the beef with big, juicy notes.
Wine and Grill Food: An Underrated Pair
Wine and grill food deserves more love: I think we can all agree on that. There’s nothing wrong with other options, but these are the kinds of pairings that’ll make you forget all about beer.
But don’t take our word for it. The summer’s here, and it’s the perfect time to try some of these out. Tell us what you thought! And let us know about some of your favorite pairings.