Beer, gin and tequila are common beverage choices when it comes to barbecuing. For many, a burger and a beer go hand in hand. Wine is often not even considered when it comes to grilling. Perhaps to some it seems a bit too pretentious or maybe with all those smoky, spicy and sweet sauce flavours common in barbecuing, wine pairing becomes a little more complicated.
As problematic as pairing wines with grilled fare can be, here are a few tips and wine suggestions that will help make your next barbecue a success!
Let have a look at some classic barbecue wine pairings.
Grilled steak works best with big, full-bodied red wines such as cabernet sauvignon. Cooked rare, the steak is best paired with a younger vintage.
Gamay noir is a bistro wine and pairs well with burgers. Choose an Ontario gamay or a beaujolais cru from Burgundy. You could also consider malbec or cabernet franc as an alternative.
Spicy sausages, baby back ribs or anything coated with sweet, smoky or spicy barbecue sauce can be paired with zinfandel. An Australian shiraz or any fruity, spicy young wine is also a good choice.
Cedar plank salmon and pinot noir is an impeccable pairing.
Grilled chicken and a light fruity sparkling wine work well together. You should also consider pairing with a dry rosé, especially if the chicken is coated with a sweet or spicy sauce.
Shrimp and grilled vegetables (perhaps prosciutto-wrapped asparagus) pair well with sauvignon blanc’s herbaceous characteristics.
Here are six summer barbecue wine recommendations to have on hand when you are ready to fire up the grill.
Montes Alpha Cabernet Sauvignon (Vintages #322586, $19.95) — Aged 12 months in French oak barrels, loaded with concentrated blackcurrant, plum and cassis fruit notes along with chocolate and cedar tones. This cabernet from Chile will impress any wine drinker who enjoys a big, full-bodied red wine. Montes leads the way in quality Chilean wine and this one is comparable to a $40–$50 California cabernet. Great value! This is a protein wine and pairs well with medium rare grilled steak.
13th Street Gamay Noir 2013 (Vintages #177824, $19.95) — The grapes used to make this wine were hand-harvested gamay from the Whitty and Sandstone vineyards on the Niagara Peninsula. Fermentation and aging were done in stainless steel tanks. No oak was introduced into the process. It is a dry, medium-bodied wine, with racy acidity, ripe raspberry and red cherry flavours. This gulpable, bistro style wine pairs well with pizza, pasta, and barbecued burgers.
7 Deadly Zins Old Vine Zinfandel (Vintages #59311, $24.95) — A delicious California blend of zinfandel and petit sirah (not to be confused with syrah) from Michael David winery in Lodi, California. A rich, full-bodied wine with spicy, jammy black fruit, hickory and a hint of smoke. This wine can handle those hard to pair spicy, smoky and sweet sauces that are often used when barbequing.
Pelee Island Pinot Noir Reserve (LCBO #458521, $16.95) — Pelee Island Winery, located in Ontario’s Lake Erie North Shore wine growing region, has several different pinot noir wines in its portfolio. For the price, this is the best value. Dry, medium body, red cherry, raspberry, and a touch of earthiness round the palette. A suitable go to wine for grilled tuna or salmon, and mushroom-based dishes.
Casa Dea 2015 Dea’s Cuvée Sparkling (Vintages #261263, $18.95) — Made from chardonnay and pinot noir grapes grown in Casa Dea’s cold creek vineyard in Prince Edward County. A hint of pink colour when poured in a glass. Lively acidity with a touch of sweetness, ripe peach, fresh apricot, green apple and citrus notes grab your attention.
I have a fondness for sparkling wines. On hot summer days they are the perfect backyard sippers. Like beer, bubbly wines are refreshing.
Robert Mondavi Fumé Blanc 2014 (Vintages #221887, $22.95) — Made from 94% sauvignon blanc and 6% semillon grapes at Robert Mondavi winery in Napa California. Fumé blanc was Mondavi’s creation back in the late 1960s. He took sauvignon’s grassy, herbaceous notes, added some toasty oak and let the wine sit on the lees (spent yeast cells) for a period of time, resulting in a wine with complex, rich and round flavours. There is smokiness in the wine that complements barbecue entrées.
Cheers to the summer of 2016! Fire up that grill and uncork a bottle of wine for a perfect pairing at your next barbecue.
Gary Killops is a certified wine geek who loves to talk, taste and write about wine. He shares his wine tasting notes on EssexWineReview.com