Barbecue and beer are warm-weather staples that form a quintessential pairing, often leaving wine lovers feeling like third wheels. It doesn’t have to be that way, and there’s no reason why you can’t invite a bottle or two of wine to the party.
In some cases, wine may even be a better pairing choice for barbecue than beer. Barbecue tends to be salty, smoky, and sometimes even sweet, all of which tends to clash with the hoppy and often bitter notes found in many beers.
Following are just five of the many wines that deserve a place at the table at your next barbecue.
The earthy, smoky notes of Pinot Noir pair perfectly with barbecued salmon, tuna, swordfish, poultry and pork. Depending on the sauce or barbecue rub used, Pinot Noir also plays well with red meat – especially if the red meat in question is lightly seasoned barbecued lamb studded with slivers of fresh garlic.
Keep in mind that the flavor profile of Pinot Noir encompasses an incredible range, so the bright, fruit-driven bottle you uncork for pairing with Pacific Northwest salmon may not play as nicely with grilled steak as its Old World counterpart with softer tannins.
Barbecue nearly always involves warm, al fresco dining. So it’s natural to reach for a cold beer when the grill is going, but it makes just as much sense to reach for a glass of sparkling Rosé. Because sparkling wine is best served ice cold, it’s a great addition to a sultry summer evening.
Sparkling Rosé pairs well with virtually every type of food and never fails to bring a festive note to the table. Its crisp acidity makes it play particularly well with foods with significant fat and spice, so pair it with honey barbecue, spice-rubbed brisket, or use it to dress up a weekday burger night on the deck. Like other sparkling beverages, it’s adept at turning down the heat for those whose palettes prefer a lighter touch with hot spices.
Beaujolais is another fail-safe when it comes to pairing barbecue and wine – its food-friendly status as everyone’s go-to picnic wine make it a no-brainer for outdoor cookouts no matter what’s on the menu. The flavor profile for Beaujolais also features a fruity, low-tannin profile that pairs well with the sweetish notes of barbecue sauces containing honey and molasses. And it’s especially good with anything pork – think casual pulled pork sandwiches with slaw on a sunlit evening on the deck.
Related: Wines for your summer picnic
Even though barbecue is traditionally associated with meat, poultry, and fish, the trend toward plant-based dining hasn’t missed the barbecue boat. Grilling vegetables brings their natural sugars to the forefront and adds a deliciously caramelized element known as char to the surface, which simply cries out for a well-oaked Chardonnay.
Barrel-aged Chardonnay also goes well with shellfish and dense finfish such as halibut, cod, and red snapper.
Zinfandel makes an ideal pairing with anything big and beefy, such as longhorn brisket cooked low-and-slow because it brings a silkiness to the table that helps rein the characteristic smokiness of barbecued red meat. It also offers peppery notes, rustic tannins, and serious spice that compliments tomato-based barbecue sauces.
When pairing wine with barbecue, it’s important to keep in mind the essential nature of barbecue as a communal food meant to be consumed in the open air with friends and family. Don’t overthink your wine choices. Anything that pairs well with fresh air and good company has something of value to bring to any barbecue.
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