When it comes to beverages for a barbeque, beer is the typical drink of choice. Just think back to the last time you received an RSVP for a summer BBQ — it most likely said BYOB (bring your own beer). However, you can go beyond the standard six-pack of craft brew.
Summer wines can pair just as well with some of your favourite BBQ meats. Of course, combining grilled goodies with summer wines takes some fine-tuning and good taste. We’ll provide guidance on how to make grilled meat and summer wine pairings work.
Rules for summer wine pairings with grilled/BBQ meats
Remember some rules when pairing summer wines with traditional BBQ meats. The first is that meats tend to pair best with red wines. Compared to poultry and fish, meat has umami and high-fat content. High concentrations of umami and fat balance out the tannins found in red wine.
In fact, a somewhat poetic chemical reaction happens when heavier meats combine with red wine. The tannin molecules of red wine soften the fat in meat, releasing more of the meat’s flavour. Simultaneously, the fat of the meat reduces the red wine’s astringency, making it taste smoother and fruitier, minus the bitterness. Case in point: a classic, time-tested combination is a red wine with steak.
Food and wine pairing don’t always follow the rules!
Remember, there are differences in meat cuts — certain cuts are leaner or fattier than others. For example, fatty pork cuts do well with red wines, but light-bodied acidic white wine pairs with a leaner pork tenderloin better than red wine.
Aside from meat, you can also grill chicken and fish, which pair best with white wines. Again, the balance lies in the chemistry. Poultry, fish, and shellfish tend to have softer textures and flavours. White wines usually have a higher acidity, meaning they can accentuate the lighter flavours of these meats to give them more kick.
All-time favourite summer wines for BBQ
Without any further adieu, we bring you three excellent summer wine choices for barbeque season. We’ll give you insights into how they fit into barbeque food and wine pairing and why they work. Our three picks of summer wines are Riesling, Pinot Noir, and Dry Rosé.
Riesling is an aromatic white wine of German origins and is one of its most sought-after white wines worldwide. It’s known for its bold combination of berry and citrus flavours and sweet scents, including beeswax, honeycomb, and more. Like many white wines, it has high acidity and is best served cold (in the fridge at 6℃ [43 ℉]). Also, Riesling is best paired with poultry and seafood, although it can work with some fattier red meats.
Barbeque food and wine pairing tips for Riesling
- Chicken: Whether grilled or barbequed, chicken paired with an off-dry Riesling is a fantastic choice for a tasty barbeque meal.
- Duck: Waterfowl isn’t a staple for barbeque season, but if you’re serving duck, consider pairing it with a late harvest Riesling.
- Pork: Yes, it’s better to pair barbecued pork with red wine. However, a dry Riesling matches decently well with both BBQ pulled pork.
- Crab and shrimp: If you add some seafood to the grill, Riesling can also make a great complement. For BBQ crab legs, you can pair it with a dry Riesling. For BBQ shrimp, consider a sweet or light riesling.
Pinot Noir, which likely originated from Burgundy, France, is the world’s most desired light-bodied red wine. People appreciate this wine so much because of its flowery and spiced aromas. French Pinot Noir tends to have a more “earthy” taste due to its mushroom and soil flavours, while California Pinot Noir is fruitier. Most Pinot Noir variants have a medium-high acidity. Pinot Noir is unique because, unlike most red wines, it has a lower tannin profile, meaning you can match it with a broader range of meats.
Barbeque food and wine pairing tips for Pinot Noir
- Pork: Red wines are almost always suitable complements for pork. Pinot Noir is no exception here —combine either a French or California Noir with your favourite BBQ pork cuts.
- Chicken: The lighter tannin profile and relatively high acidity of Pinot Noir make it a suitable choice for BBQ chicken.
- Salmon: Typically, white wine works well with grilled fish, but a Pinot Noir goes well with salmon, such as cedar plank salmon.
- Hot dog: Eating a good old-fashioned hot dog doesn’t mean having to drink a beer. Pinot Noirs pair well with hot dogs to create a juxtaposition of BBQ traditionalism with fancier tastes.
Rosé (aka pink wine) encompasses many wine types, including Pinot Noir. They also include the likes of Grenache, Sangiovese, and Mourvèdre. That said, rosé results from red grape skins touching wine for a brief time, usually a few hours. Makers of rose can manipulate the colour of the wine to their desire.
Dry rosé wines have higher tannins than white wines, enhancing the wine with elevated astringency and bitterness. Dry rose is an ideal summer wine because its acidity levels pair well with many summertime treats.
Barbeque food and wine-pairing tips for dry rosé
- Lamb (skewers): A bold rose can pair well with an equally bold and flavourful BBQ lamb skewer dish.
- Ribs: Delicate rosé wines can get overpowered by pork flavours. Therefore, full-bodied, dry rosé wine is a better pairing for BBQ pork since it’s bold enough to cut through the pork taste.
- Chicken: Dry rosé and chicken are natural fits like the summer and backyard patios. Fruitier dry rosé wines with softer tannin profiles add a nice counterbalance to BBQ chicken especially.
- Seafood: Fish and shellfish (i.e., shrimp and crab) have delicate flavours, so an equally delicate dry rosé will complement seafood without overpowering their flavours.
Serving summer wines at the BBQ
Here are some final notes when serving summer wines for barbeque season. First off, keep the temperature of your wine in mind. You can serve a white wine such as the Riesling mentioned above at a cold (refrigerated) temperature. It’s best to serve red wines at room temperature of 18°C (65°F). However, you can serve them chilled if outside temperatures for your BBQ surpass 20°C (68°F).
Second, remember that your summer wines can complement other BBQ dishes. That may include grilled veggies and desserts you eat after the main course. We will cover those pairings in another post. Ultimately, enjoy your barbeque season and summer wine pairings responsibly.
Check out our blog for more insights on pairing your wine and food!