When you pull out your grill for the summer, you don’t often think of heading to your local winery to supply the drinks for your BBQ! However, wine can make a great accompaniment to meals cooked outdoors without changing a single thing about the food you cook. In fact, adding wine to your menu in place of beer can bring out flavors in your favorite BBQ foods you may not have noticed before.
To successfully pair wine and BBQ, you should probably think about the meats and vegetables you will be cooking first. You also need to consider the sauce that you’re using. Is it sweet? Is it sour? Is it smoky? All these features will help you pick a great wine.
Now, wine pairing is an oft-debated science. Some people propose rules about which foods can go with which wines. However, a BBQ is a fun gathering, not a stuffy restaurant. You want to provide drinks that help people enjoy the food, not make them feel guilty about not appreciating the wine. As such, any wine will do, but keep it on the budget end for everyone’s sake.
Now, the fun part: which wine will you pick?
Because the wines you will be using need not be expensive, it doesn’t make much sense to plan a meal around the wine. Instead, make the wine match the meal. Pairings can be surprising: steak usually goes with red wine, but many people enjoy the way a fun blush like white zinfandel refreshes this heavy dish, particularly when eaten outdoors.
The sauce itself is often the deciding factor when picking out a wine. A good basic suggestion is that a spicy sauce suggests a riesling and a smoky sauce wants chardonnay. In theory, BBQ goes better with red wine, but this is often a product of the meat, not the intense sauces used. As such, you might go for a red wine (perhaps a malbec or a syrah) if your BBQ has thin-style sauce and is primarily flavored by smoke.
One of the most popular wines for BBQ more generally is called sangiovese. This is what people are asking for when they request a “nice chianti.” This wine goes great with most sauces and meats. Stocking up for summer can provide you with an easy and flexible wine that you can pull out at a moment’s notice for last minute gatherings. It’s also the perfect wine to bring with you to a friend’s BBQ when you don’t know precisely what will be served.
The best way to pair wine with BBQ is to actually try the flavors together. This simply requires practice. At your first BBQ of the season, bring out a variety of wines and try to taste them all in small portions. This will give you a first hand account of what the interaction of flavors will be. Don’t let any traditional pairing rules get your down: if you like it, it’s the right pairing for your party!