Grilling Season and Wine Pairings
August is here, which means grilling season is at its height. Who can resist a juicy burger, freshly charred veggies, or smoked ribs, especially when paired with one of our favorite Cellar Collection wines?! We’re sharing a list of classic barbecue dishes and recommended wine pairings that are perfect for end-of-summer grilling. Enjoy!
Steaks, Burgers, and Dogs
A seasoned steak begs for a full-bodied red to accompany it. Pair your wine according to your seasoning. Heavy handed with your seasoning? Plan on pouring a rich, smooth wine. A well-seasoned steak would go perfectly with a Californian red brimming of dark fruit berries and notes of mocha, oak, and coffee.
You might think that burgers and steaks would pair with the same wine, but that’s not always the case. Sweet ketchup, salty bacon, and the bite of mustard requires a smooth, medium-bodied wine. Malbec is the perfect pairing due to its silky feel on the palate, and rich, fruity flavors that go well with a variety of condiments (especially when you’re loading up a Chicago style hot dog). Not in the mood for red wine? Try an unoaked Chardonnay, or a crisp white with more mineral notes to it, such as the Grace Bridge Chardonnay. The crispness and acidity will balance the creaminess of melty cheese on your burger.
Pulled Pork and Baby Back Ribs
Pork naturally has more collagen to it, which is why it should be cooked low and slow (fat equals flavor). Let’s talk about wine pairings with dry rubs and slow cooking. No matter what you like to season your pork with, a medium-bodied red wine such as a Syrah or California Zinfandel will pair well. The smokiness of the meat brings out the lush, fruit-forward flavors of these wines. Syrah lends notes of cocoa and spice as well as fruit, which blooms the flavors of spices used in dry rubs, such as paprika and black pepper.
Not all seafood is meant to be grilled. When grilling fish fillets, choose a meatier, thicker fish such as salmon, Chilean sea bass, or swordfish. If you’re going to grill seafood such as scallops or shrimp, we recommend skewering them for ease of flipping. When it comes to pairing the perfect wine, choose a white that won’t overpower the delicate fish. A nice oaky Chardonnay will almost always do the trick! The buttery notes will compliment that squeeze of fresh lemon (we love grilling our lemons for an extra pop of acid). Additionally, a zesty and acidic Sauvignon Blanc will bring out those citrus notes as well. Another option, and tried-and-true favorite, is a Sparkling wine. The bubbles will highlight any seasoning on your seafood, and is always a light, refreshing summer drink.
No barbecue is complete without plenty of delicious sides. From sweet corn on the cob to a grilled mixed vegetable medley, crisp whites will bring out the natural flavors of the vegetables. Bell peppers, mushrooms, zucchini, carrots, anything fresh is good. Simply season with salt and pepper, and enjoy! Oaky Chardonnay and white blends with notes of minerality and floral tones balance out the butter corn and draw out the sweetness. Looking for a cold vegetable side? Classic Broccoli Salad is a fan favorite, pair with any of the previously mentioned white wines or try an acidic Falanghina to cut through the creaminess.
Potato Salad, Pasta Salad, Baked Beans… The list of starchy side dishes is endless. Heavier mayonnaise-based salads will require a crisp white with acidity to balance out the flavors, as will sweet and spicy baked beans. Look for a German Riesling or California Chardonnay to pair with these sides. The sweet notes to a Riesling bring out the smokiness of the baked beans, while a full-bodied yet medium-dry Chardonnay can stand up to the density of the foods.
Onto what everyone looks forward to different types of barbecue sauces! Everyone has their favorite, but we’ve separated them into our top three:
Kansas Style Sauce
Sweet and tangy, this ketchup and brown sugar or molasses-based sauce is the most familiar to everyone. We prefer this style on a rack of smoky baby back ribs. Due to the sweetness, a fruity yet complex red wine is what you’ll want to pour with this one. Spanish Grenache is perfect with its prune-like sweetness of ripe berries layered with cherries and hints of oak. We’ve included a recipe below for our very own Red Wine Barbecue Sauce, crafted by one of our very own Wine Cellar Group team members, give it a try and let us know what you think!
Red Wine BBQ Sauce
1 ¼ cup dry red wine (We used Chilean Cabernet.)
½ c ketchup
½ c beer (We suggest a lager or porter.)
¼ c molasses
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
2 tsp chili powder (or less for less spicy!)
Whisk everything together in a saucepan; bring to a boil. Bring heat down to medium-low, and simmer for 25 minutes or until reduced to 1 cup, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat, let cool, and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
Can be used as a marinade overnight, or brushed directly onto the meat as it cooks!
North Carolina Style Sauce
The tangier, less sweet cousin to Kansas Style, this barbecue sauce is vinegar-based and has very little sugar, resulting in that famous, tangy, acidic bite. We recommend adding this sauce to a pulled pork sandwich! We like a little kick of red pepper in ours and prefer a white wine for pairing. Try a dry Riesling or Gewürztraminer; they both have enough acid to stand up to the vinegar and balance the complex flavors. Sauvignon Blancs from New Zealand will also stand up well with its classic grapefruit punch of acid. For red wine, try an Italian red, such as Chianti. It’s higher in acid and lighter-bodied.
South Carolina Style Sauce
When you hear people talk about ‘Carolina Gold’, this is what they’re referring to: a strong, pungent sauce with a mustard base. Some prefer Dijon for spicier flavor, while others prefer a milder-more acidic yellow mustard. We’re fans of tossing grilled or smoked chicken wings in this sauce, or basting pork with it. Earthy reds such as Pinot Noir and Sangiovese pair well with the flavor of mustard, and don’t overpower the sauce. Tempranillo is another great pairing with its smoky, spicy notes followed by rich dark berried fruit flavors.
What Cellar Collection wines are you currently drinking with your BBQ foods? Share your photos with us! Tag @thewinecellargroup and use #TheWineCellarGroup for a chance to be featured on our page. Join our email list for more fun wine tips, deals, and upcoming events!