BBQ and Wine Pairings for Summer Cookouts

·6 min read

If you can create unexpected pairings like wine with Pringles, you better believe you can pair wine with barbecue. Although beer often takes the spotlight around the grill, there are few beers that can bring out the bold flavors of barbecue better than a perfectly paired wine. "The adventure of pairing is fun," says Karen Bonariggo, chief administrative officer for Messina Hof Wine Cellars in Texas, "and barbecued and grilled foods are big in the flavor department, meaning wine choices can be equally spectacular." When it comes to pairing wine with grilled food, Bonarrigo recommends starting with two sips of the wine first (the first as a palate cleanser and the second to focus on the flavor of the wine) before moving on to the food. From there, it's game-on for sipping and enjoying a great meal with good company.

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BBQ Wine Pairings

From crisp white wines to tannic reds, here are our picks for the perfect wine and barbecue pairings.

Steak

It's hard to beat a classic steak and Cabernet Sauvignon pairing, with its firm tannins and bold dark fruit flavors, but bold, red Italian grapes do well with steak also, and Bonariggo prefers her steak with a dark and dense Sagrantino. For fattier cuts like ribeye, pair the steak with a fruit-forward Zinfandel to contrast with the ribeye's richness. Try these bottles:

Hot Dog

A crisp acidic white wine like Champagne or Riesling can cut through the fat of hot dogs for a pairing that will knock this ball game favorite out of the park. If using mustard, pair it with a California Sauvignon Blanc and let the tangy, tropical fruit flavors highlight the mustard while balancing the saltiness of the hot dog. Try these bottles:

Pork Ribs

For both dry-rubbed ribs and ribs slathered in a sweet/tangy barbecue sauce, go with a Grenache-based blend from the Rhone Valley or Priorat and let the big fruit characters complement the smoky, sweet, and spicy flavors of the pork rib. For a wine pairing with ribs, try these bottles:

Jason Donnelly

Beef Hamburger

Bold, big reds do best with meaty burgers, and Bonariggo prefers dry reds with rustic tannins like a Grenache-Syrah-Mourvèdre (GSM), a Tempranillo, or a Cabernet Franc. California Cabernet Sauvignon is also a great pairing, as it stands up to the rich meat with gritty tannins and bold flavors. Try these bottles:

Related: Test Kitchen Tips for the Best Grilled Burgers

Veggie Burger

Since veggie burgers range from super flavorful to super simple, it's best to stick with a medium to lighter-bodied wine with nice acidity. Rosé often pairs well with burgers based around root veggies, while red wine drinkers will likely enjoy a light-bodied Pinot Noir and white wine fans may enjoy an unoaked Viognier. Try these bottles:

BBQ Chicken

Lighter proteins take on bolder flavor when cooked on a grill, so juicy Malbecs and Primativos suddenly become exciting wine pairings for barbecue chicken. California Rosé also does a great job balancing the sweetness of the barbecue sauce while standing up to a lean cut of chicken. Try these bottles:

Related: Outstanding Grilled Chicken Recipes for Your Next Cookout

Pulled Pork

The smoky, rich, and spicy flavors of pulled pork are ideal with an elegant and dry German Riesling, which balances the spice and smoke with intense mineral flavors and bright notes of fruit. Served without a sauce, a Petit Verdot adds tons of flavor to smoked pulled pork, while a Grenache-based Rosé is able to stand up to the sweetness of a barbecue sauce without getting overpowered. Try these bottles:

Brisket

A good brisket has a nicely seasoned crust, and wines that highlight that peppery flavor include Tempranillo, Merlot, or a Grenache-Syrah-Mourvèdre (GSM). Big and heavy red wines do best to pair with the bold flavors and high fat content of a brisket. Try these bottles:

Scott Little

Sausages

For a sweeter sausage, Italian wines like Sangiovese or Chianti balance the flavors well, while a spicier bratwurst would do well with a French Rosé or Lambrusco. Chicken sausages pair best with a cold Sauvignon Blanc, where the sweet and salty notes play off each other. Try these bottles:

Veggie Skewers

Veggies on the grill tend to take on an almost caramelized quality, making them ideal for crisp white wines like a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc or even a Gewürztraminer. For meatier veggies like mushrooms or eggplant, try an Oregon Pinot Noir or an unoaked Chablis to highlight the subtly smoked and savory flavors. Try these bottles:

Salmon

Grilled salmon is an elegant choice for a backyard barbecue, and it lends itself well to an elegant wine pairing. You can't go wrong with a Pinot Noir for cedar plank salmon, but a pairing of a Dolcetto Rosé or a dry Grenache-based Rosé works nicely as well. Try these bottles:

Pork Chops

Juicy and tender pork chops deserve a hearty pairing, like an unoaked California Chardonnay or a Texas Petite Sirah loaded with powerfully dense tannins. These richer wines have a nice acidity that balances the smoke and flavors of the pork.

Andy Lyons

Halloumi

Cheese on a grill isn't always a great idea, unless that cheese is halloumi … and then it's genius! This salty and thick cheese has a high melting point and grills almost like a piece of meat, which makes it an ideal pairing for a high acidity Prosecco or Blanc du Bois. Alsace Rieslings or Gewürztraminer are also really nice pairings for this vegetarian dish.