Grilled Hamburgers Just Waiting For A Bottle Of Zinfandel

It’s almost summer time and the trinity of summer Holidays, Memorial Day, 4th of July and Labor Day cry out for BBQ and for us, that means BBQ paired with wine. Yeah…yeah…I know, summer time and BBQ means beer to most people but wine and BBQ pairings are great. Ah…but what type of wine to serve with your BBQ? We’re glad you asked (you did ask didn’t you?) It comes in so many different varieties that choosing a wine to pair with BBQ can be difficult, but we’ve taken the mystery out of it and humbly offer up these great BBQ and wine pairings.

First, make sure you know what kind of BBQ you are having. BBQ can mean many different things to many different people. In Texas, it’s most often slowly smoked beef. In the South East, it’s slow smoked pork with either sweet, mustard or vinegar based sauces. In the West, BBQ probably means grilled, not BBQ’ed. What’s the difference? BBQ means “low and slow” the mantra for cooking over low heat for a long time. Grilled is just the opposite. High Heat, seared and done quickly. If you are doing the obligatory Hamburgers and Hot Dogs, that falls squarely into this category. Why the quick dissertation on the differences for BBQ? Because the type of BBQ has a big impact on the type of wine you would choose to serve with it. We’ve broken the following out into two sections. The first is for the typical BBQ that you might have at a picnic; what we refereed to as grilled. The second is for true slow cooked BBQ with lots of sauce and smoke flavor.

Two Rules to remember for BBQ and Wine Pairing
1) Winery-Sage’s cardinal rule of wine and food pairing. Don’t ever serve a food sweeter than the wine you are drinking. Why is this so important for a BBQ and wine pairing post. Well…let’s mosey on down to point 2 and find out.
2) BBQ, particularly the low and slow variety, often involves copious amounts of sauce and that sauce can be the problem for pairing your wine with BBQ. Sweet sauces need even sweeter wines. Vinegar based sauces do well with heavier, drier wines. Pair the wine with the BBQ sauce, not the meat because the sauce is likely to be the dominant flavor.  if there isn’t a BBQ sauce, then you are good with the normal meat parings.

Grilled Food and Wine Pairing (Hot and Fast)

Hamburgers (assuming of course you haven’t smothered them in BBQ sauce) pair great with medium to heavy body Red wines. We like Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon or Zinfandel. The fattier the meat, the heavier and more tannic the wine should be.

Hot Dogs
Wine with Hot Dogs? Why not? It’s a meat right. Ok, maybe we really don’t want to know the answer to that but Hot Dogs are great with wine and because they tend to be a blank canvas for what sits on top of them, a wide variety of wines compliment them. Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, a slightly fruity Pinot Grigio or even a dry Riesling are great for leaner hot dogs without Ketchup or BBQ sauce. If you are putting either of those on, go with a Zinfandel or a Tempranillo.

Grilled Hot Dogs

Hot Dogs On The Grill

If you are really treating yourself and have a lean tender steak like a filet mignon, a light Red wine is the perfect wine. Go with a Pinot Noir or a light Sangiovese. If it is a fattier steak, here is where you want to break out that big Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah or Petite Sirah.

Other Sausages (In Other Words…Not Hot Dogs)
Most sausages tend to be pretty fatty so I would stick with Red wines and follow the same rules as hamburgers. They are both fattier ground meats after all.

Fish or Shellfish
Again, assuming that you haven’t put a sauce on it, go with Viognier, Chardonnay or a dry Riesling. If you are really a Sauvignon Blanc fan (and if you are, I suggest you keep it to yourself), this is your chance to inflict it on your meal..uh…I mean enjoy it with your meal.

Grilled Chicken
Pairing grilled chicken and white wine is a natural assuming you haven’t used BBQ sauce. Albarino is my favorite, but any white wine, as long as it is not too sweet will work well. If you have used a sauce, pair the wine with the sauce, not the chicken (are you sensing a theme now with the whole wine and sauce pairing thing?)

Grilled Chicken and Oregano

 BBQ and Wine (Low and Slow) or “All Sauced Up”

This is pretty straight forward because most slow cooked BBQ has sauce on it so irrespective of the type of meat, pair the wine with the sauce.  Even if you are grilling meats but are using heavily flavored sauces, pair the wine and the sauce using tips from this section.

slow smoked brisket

Slow Smoked BBQ Brisket Ready for Wine

Sweet Sauces
A sweeter wine like a US Riesling or a Gewürztraminer would work well. If you really want a red wine, look for a sweeter Zinfandel or a Shiraz (actually a Syrah but those named Shiraz usually tend to be much fruitier and less acidic).

BBQ Chicken

BBQ Chicken With a Sweeter Sauce. Pair The Wine With the Sauce, Not The Chicken!

Vinegar Based Sauces
Tart sauces need heavier wines. Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc or Syrah. If you want to stretch a little, look for a Petite Verdot.

Mustard Based Sauces
Assuming they are also not too sweet, these call for a medium body red like Merlot, or a bigger Sangiovese.

Here’s to our summer Holidays. Light up that grill, and pop a bottle of wine for the perfect pairing with your BBQ meal (but be careful with that lighter fluid so you don’t singe your eyebrows)!