How to Pair Tasty Wines with your Summer Barbecue and Grill-out Favorites

Summer’s here and you know what that means: It’s time to start grilling! While outdoor grilling is often associated with beer, there are no rules that say you can’t enjoy a nice glass of wine with your burger! Pairing wine and barbecue is easier than you thought. 

In fact, a chilled glass of wine can bring out the flavors of your favorite summertime foods in some surprisingly delicious ways. 

The next time you’re firing up the grill, use this guide to help you pick the perfect vino. 

Red Wine on a Hot Summer Day? Chill. 

On hot days, you’re going to want something cool to drink. We feel you. If you love red wine, there’s no need for you to feel left out.

For lighter red wines the serving temperature is around 50 degrees and full-bodied reds should be served around 65 degrees.

If you don’t have a fancy wine cooler, simply pop the bottle in the fridge or an ice bucket for 15 minutes before you’re ready to drink it.

Burgers

Burgers are the classic barbecue indulgence, and we never tire of them because there are oh-so-many kinds of burgers to try.

For classic beef burgers, you’ll want a medium- to full-bodied red with some tannins. Cabernet Sauvignon is a solid choice. You could also opt for a Zinfandel or a Côtes du Rhône blend – made with fruity Grenache along with peppery Shiraz and Mourvèdre

If you like to go wild with toppings, think about the prominent flavors in that first bite of burger to help you pick a wine. Spicy burgers with jalepeños or hot sauce are best with a low-alcohol, low-tannin wine like a chilled rosé. If you’re a cheese fiend, you can go with a white wine. The acidity of an unoaked Chardonnay or sparkling Cava will cut through the creamy richness of a cheeseburger.

For smoky turkey burgers, go with a fresh, fruity red like Barbera or Pinot Noir. You could also choose a rich white wine like Chenin Blanc. But pairing wine and barbecue doesn’t stop there!

Hot Dogs & Brats

We’re not here to take sides in the great ketchup-or-mustard debate. However you like to dress your dog, it’s going to be pretty salty. Because of the saltiness, you’re going to want a dry white wine like Sauvignon Blanc or a dry sparkling rosé. 

For spicy or generously seasoned sausage, you could go with a red or white wine. Italian Chianti or Spanish Tempranillo – both with bright fruit flavors and notes of herbs – are great choices. You could also opt for an unoaked Chardonnay or Riesling.

Bratwurst (aka German sausage) goes down well with Riesling, Germany’s favorite white wine. If sauerkraut is in the mix, go with a dry Lambrusco or Pinot Gris.

Steak & Ribs

While you can enjoy steak all year round, there is something special about slicing into a steak that’s fresh off the barbecue. Similar to burgers, steak pairs well with a bold, structured red like Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, or Malbec.

Ribs also go well with a bold, full-bodied red. The only difference is that, typically, a rack of ribs is slathered with barbecue sauce. The bold, spicy flavors in Zinfandel are a perfect match for bbq sauce. Syrah – with dark fruit flavors and a hint of cocoa – or Carménère –  with bold flavors of plum and spice – are also great choices.

BBQ Chicken

Similar to BBQ ribs, BBQ chicken goes well with a rich fruity red like Zinfandel.

If you like your grilled chicken sans bbq sauce, go with a white wine with a touch of sweetness like Pinot Gris or an off-dry Riesling.

Salmon

If you like to grill salmon either in foil or on a cedar plank, you’ll want a light white wine like grassy Sauvignon Blanc. You could also go with a light, fruity red like Beaujolais, or a dry rosé.

Veggie Burgers

If you’re on a plant-based diet, we have not forgotten about you. Most veggie burgers pair well with a floral, aromatic white wine like Gewürztraminer or Chardonnay. If your preferred veggie patty involves a rich portobello mushroom, you could stick with Chardonnay or go for a red wine like Malbec.

Veggie Skewers

Freshly grilled veggies like zucchini, squash, and peppers pair well with Grüner Veltliner – a lean, light-bodied white wine with peppery notes and tingly acidity – or a dry rosé.

Grilled Corn

Whether dosed in butter and garlic or covered in crumbly cheese and herbs, grilled corn pairs well with an unoaked Chardonnay or off-dry Riesling.

Sweet Treats

Pairing wine and barbecue doesn’t always have to be savory – it can be sweet, too! For desserts with grilled fruit, like this grilled peach cobbler, you can either go with a light or sparkling white wine, like Albariño or Cava, or a sweeter white wine like Muscat or Tokaji – a Hungarian dessert wine with notes of honey and grapefruit.

Sweet and chocolatey desserts like campfire s’more nachos go well with a dessert wine like ruby port.

In Vino Finito

Wine is not just a fancy drink for elegant sit-down dinners. In fact, vino goes delightfully well with casual barbecue fare. Simply follow the same pairing guidelines you’d use for your regular indoor meals. 

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Bright Cellars

Our staff is full of passionate wine lovers. With our amazing sommeliers at the helm, we’ve been schooled on all things wine. We came together to write this article, in hopes of spreading a little wine-ducation with you.

2 Comments
  1. We just received our first shipment of wines, and we are so excited to become wine
    Connoisseurs. 😊 Tonight we are having cheeseburgers and I wish our shipment included Chardonnay! Well, now we know better! We really prefer red wines, but enjoy whites in the summer. We are looking forward to our next shipment already!

    1. Hi, Loriel, we’re so happy you just got your first box! Please let us know how you like it. Thanks for reading!

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