12 Most Excellent Wines For Barbecue

12 Most Excellent Wines For Barbecue

Summer is officially here, and you know what that means! It’s time to start grilling, planking and smoking your favorite foods. While beer is probably the top of mind beverage for barbecues for most folks, don’t forget about wine! A glass of wine alongside your grilled favorites can elevate a meal from mundane to memorable.

Here are some of things you need to know to successfully add wine to your list of favorite adult barbecue beverages!

  • If your meat, or vegetable has a sauce, salsa, chutney, etc. that dominates the flavors of the dish, let the sauce dictate which wine to pair with the food. BBQ Chicken is a good example. If you follow the cliché white wine with white meat “rule”, it could be a challenge to find a white wine to stand up to the bold flavors of the BBQ sauce. It’ll be much easier to find a red wine, or even a Rosé that will complement BBQ chicken. In other words, think of the meat, or vegetable as a “vessel” for the sauce. Pair to the sauce, not the “vessel”.
  • Smoking, grilling, and blackening all transform the flavors of food, so that will dictate which wines to serve with the food
  • Spicy (hot) foods like sweet. Pair spicy hot foods with wines that have low to moderate alcohol levels (less than 14.5% generally), no or minimal oak, and some residual sugar (sweetness)
  • BBQ wines should be inexpensive

With those tips in mind, check out these lip-smacking wines for your barbecue!

1. Dry Rosé

I like Rosé because it’s served chilled, which make it refreshing, while at the same time being “bolder” than the most popular white wines when it come to pairing with grilled, and smoked foods. I especially like a Rosé with grilled salmon. Try the Bonny Doon 2011 Vin Gris de Cigare, or for sparkling, Gruet Brut Rosé.

2. Zinfandel

Zinfandel is a wine that loves charred foods topped with barbecue sauces. Look for the Ravenswood Old Vine Zinfandel. And if your barbecue sauce is on the sweet side, consider an off-dry White Zinfandel. It’s great with barbecue chicken sandwiches. I recommend Beringer White Zinfandel.

3. Merlot

Merlot is a great choice for grilled, planked and smoked foods. This is especially true if you throw some herbs (rosemary comes to mind) into the heat source. Try the Bella Serra Merlot.

4. Petite Sirah

Petite Sirah, a plump wine saturated with berry flavors, and moderate acidity levels makes a great companion a range of grilled and barbecued meats. Look for Maggio Petite Sirah.

5. Shiraz

Wines made from the Syrah (a.k.a. Shiraz) grape, and Syrah blends are a natural with all kinds of grilled foods because of their fruity profile and acidity. Look for Rosemount Estate Shiraz.

6. Malbec

Loads of dark plummy fruit, and a touch of peppery spice make Malbec a natural for grilled burgers and steaks. Look for Dona Paula Malbec.

7. Sangria

Sangria, the wine punch so popular in Spain and Portugal, makes a great barbecue wine! You can make it either red, or white. There are lots of recipes on the web. Try a few, and find one you like. My favorite is called “Best Sangria,” from Cook’s Illustrated.

8. Riesling

Think Riesling when your foods incorporate aromatic spices (such as Indian spices), or has a sweet and spicy marinades or sauce such as sweet and sour. It also pairs well with grilled sausages like brats, along with grilled pineapple, and veggies. Look for Navarro Riesling.

9. Chardonnay

Chardonnay is a wine that works well with grilled seafood, and shellfish, along with corn on the cob slathered in butter. Look for Clos du Bois Chardonnay.

10. Sauvignon Blanc

Sauvignon Blanc is a great wine for a wide variety of foods. It works especially well with dishes emphasizing fresh herbs, such as fish or chicken marinated in citrus, or vinaigrette. And if you’re grilling fish or vegetables featuring fresh herbs such as dill, it’s hard to beat. Look for Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc.

11. Gewürztraminer

Gewurztraminer offers a nice balance of spice and moderate sweetness that make it an excellent partner with foods smoked/grilled over aromatic woods such as apple or almond. It’s fantastic with fruit based salsa too. Look for Columbia Crest Two Vines Gewurztraminer.

12. Sparkling Wines

Last, but certainly not least would be sparkling wines like Cava from Spain, Prosecco from Italy. Because they are served chilled they offer refreshment. And that, along with their palate-cleansing effervescence and acidity, prepare your palate for the next bite of your favorite barbecue dishes. I recommend Mionetto Prosecco.

What are your favorite wines to serve with barbecue?

Featured image courtesy of jack vicary licensed via Creative Commons.


Martin Redmond


Martin is a finance professional by day, and wine lover, traveler, and a wine-drinking fool the rest of the time. He likes to get thoughts of wine off his mind by sharing experiences through his ENOFYLZ Wine blog

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