Never Fear The Grill: Wine Pairings with Barbecue
It’s summertime. It’s hot. And, it’s time to fire up the grill!
But what type of wine is best to pair with those foods you’re cooking on the barbie?
Let’s find out.
It’s important to understand the reasoning behind why a certain style of wine fits well with different types of food, so that you’re able to select a wine based on what’s available.
Barbecue Meat Wine Pairings
- North Carolina Barbecue Sauce (sweet): Petite Sirah, Monastrell, Tannat, Pinotage
- South Carolina Barbecue Sauce (spicy-mustard): Aglianico, Sangiovese, Montepulciano d’Abruzzo
- Kansas City Barbecue Sauce (classic): Carménère, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon or a Cabernet blend
- Plain Barbecue Pork: Zinfandel (or Primitivo), Port on the Rocks, Dry Riesling, Garnacha
- Plain Texas-Style Beef Brisket: Tempranillo, Australian Shiraz, GSM Blend
- Burgers and Beef: Sangiovese (or Chianti), Syrah, American Oak-Aged Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Priorat-blends, etc.
Typically, when we grill, we grill meat (meat is anything other than poultry and fish). As a general rule, red wines pair excellently well with barbecue-grilled meats. Why? Well, it’s because the umami and high fat in the meat will balance out the tannin in red wine.
For pork barbecue, you’re often seasoning with sweet, spicy, smoky, and tangy flavors and matching sauces. In this case, you can use your wine to balance the smoke and spice of your grilled pork with something fruity that has similar smoky-spicy flavors. For example, a Zinfandel that’s medium- to full-bodied with plenty of backbone will do the trick. However, you also have another option. Do as the Italians do: use your wine as a “sauce,” to the meat.
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For example, you could serve a glass of Ruby Port on ice alongside your slow smoked pork, which will easily serve as the sweet “sauce,” and provide you with an exceptional explosion of flavor – don’t forget the slightly pickled sweet slaw on the side. A nice, dry Riesling (Trocken) might even do the trick here too.
In the realm of red meat, such as burgers or steak on the grill, think about another full-bodied option, such as Tempranillo, Cabernet-blend, Sangiovese, or even a good GSM Blend (Grenache-Syrah-Mourvèdre). These wines will enhance the the peppery and tobacco flavors in the dish.
Chicken and Fish
- Grilled Chicken: Sauvignon Blanc, Grüner Veltliner, Grechetto
- BBQ Chicken: Rosé, White Zinfandel, Gewürztraminer, Off-Dry Riesling
- Grilled White Fish: Friulano, Verdejo, White Vinho Verde, Colombard
- Grilled Salmon: Chardonnay, White Rioja, Viognier, Marsanne-Blends and even lighter-bodied Beaujolais or Pinot Noir.
For those of us who prefer the lighter fare, simple grilled chicken and fish pair beautifully with Sauvignon Blanc, or even Verdejo. They are citrusy, sometimes, grassy, and almost always “light.” Think simplicity, but also think sophistication. And if the recipe is simple enough, chicken (and fish) almost always pair well with a good unoaked to lightly oaked Chardonnay.
If you’re truly “bbqing” your chicken though, with the sticky sauce and grill marks and all, a sweeter, more intense Gewürztraminer is an excellent choice. Try that with blue cheese on your grilled wings – yum! The sweet will cut the spice and the stink, creating the most glorious amalgamation of aroma and flavor on your palate. Make sure to serve that Gewürztraminer cold to further quench spicy foods.
Spinning things differently on the grill, basic salt and pepper, maybe a few tomatoes, or even lime and cilantro for fish tacos, you’ll want to play off of the citrus and minerality in a nicely chilled Sauvignon Blanc, Fumé Blanc (slightly oaked Sauvignon Blanc), Grechetto, Grüner Veltliner, or Verdejo.
Hmm…can you imagine this: grilled chicken, glazed with apricot jam, alongside a gorgeous Fume Blanc or Italian Orvieto (aka Grechetto)? And next, a spicy white fish taco with all its pizzazz in one hand, while you sip on the tart and pleasingly subtle zip of a glass of Verdejo. Beautiful.