I have almost perfected the rib eye, just working on the timing! But anyway, it got me thinking about when I used to live in New England and wasn’t able to grill whenever the mood strikes.
I must admit that living in South Florida now I pretty much get to grill year round. But, for all my Northern friends that are cleaning up their grills and power washing patio furniture and planning barbecues, here are some ideas on how to choose wine when you’re ready to grill!!
Zinfandels will be able to handle a wide variety of red meats. This bold red wine bellies up to meaty, smokey flavors – allowing the varietal’s black pepper spice, acidity and ripe tannins to carry the meat’s fats and texture to a new dimension. A Zin will also work well with barbeque sauce, steak sauce and mild salsas – if there is too much spice in the sauce the two will compete and both the wine and the sauce end up as losers.
Merlot is the spicy sauce answer to the above dilemma. With the characteristic fruit-forward flavor profile, this varietal will support the spice and not aggravate it. Grilled pork chops, chicken and garden-variety salads with lighter dressings also mingle well with Merlot.
Shiraz/Syrah another varietal that makes the grill-friendly wine list. This varietal is delicious with just about any red meat. Offering dynamic, somewhat aggressive fruit flavors, balanced with more mellow tannins and a softer-fuller body – this wine’s place to shine is definitely at a barbecue gathering! Rhone Syrahs tend to have a smokier flavor characteristic and lend themselves extremely well to smoked brisket.
Cabernet Sauvignon is made for steaks with a higher fat content and burgers of beef or turkey will pair equally well. The tighter tannins are significantly mellowed by the meat’s fat, producing a palate pleaser to remember! Top your burgers with bold cheeses, like blue or sharp cheddar and this varietal gets even better!
Pinot Noir a flexible varietal that is known for being extremely food-friendly. Can go from grilled fish to a juicy burger in a single sip! Pinot Noir is an ideal candidate for grilled fish – especially salmon, burgers and chicken both bare their best in the presence of Pinot Noir. If you aren’t sure if what wine will work with your grilled dinner, Pinot Noir will likely be your best bet.
Grill-friendly White Varietals to Consider:
Chardonnay will work wonderfully with grilled fish (including shellfish), chicken with creamy sauces, and grilled corn on the cob with lots of butter!
Riesling the perfect varietal for grilled brats, shrimp, barbecue chicken, grilled pineapple and a variety of grilled veggies.
Sauvignon Blanc has a herbaceous quality that supports marinades and sauces with similar attributes. For example, grilled chicken that has been doused in Italian dressing or a citrus marinade will be unbeatable with a Sauvignon Blanc. Likewise, roasted peppers, veggies in fresh herbs, grilled fish with dill and lemon will all be highlighted in tandem with a Sauvignon Blanc.
Gewurztraminer often offers a balance to spice with its slightly to moderately sweet character. This varietal would be a great choice to go with blackened Mahi Mahi, or grilled Cajun chicken with fresh mango salsa.
In very, very general red wines go well with grilled red meats – we’re talking your basic burgers, steaks, ribs and the like. These meats can be somewhat salty, a bit smokey and tend to be a touch sweeter if grilled due to marinades, sauces, condiments, cooking times, etc. The lighter meats and sauces are more apt to flow better with white wines that share similar flavors as the foods they are meant to accent. If you are having a backyard barbecue, offer a few whites and a few reds and let your guests mix and match to see which flavor pairs suit their preferences. They are no hard and fast rules when it comes to pairing wines with your grilled foods, just generalities that can get you going. Ultimately it is your palate that you’re seeking to please by the wine pairing.
So what is your favorite combo? Let me know below.