Thursday, May 30 2024 10:25

Sizzling Selections: The Best Wine Pairings for Your Barbecue Feast

Written by Liz Tarditi

A match made in heaven

“Hold my beer …”

When it comes to barbecue, we say hold ALL the beer! Wine and barbecue pairings unleash deeper flavors from both the barbecue and the wine.

Why? Chemistry! Wines contain bioactive tannins from skins, seeds, stems and oak aging. That “dry mouth” feeling you get is the tannins attaching to the proteins in your saliva, releasing more flavors and enhancing the softer, more luscious qualities of the wine. Your mouth is left clean and ready for the next bite, and every bite tastes better. It’s not alchemy — it’s the art and science of food satisfaction, making food and drink more delicious.

With that little science lesson out of the way, let’s get to the good part: pairing!

The Meat of the Matter

Which wines go best with barbecue? You might think the biggest, boldest reds. Actually, medium- to full-bodied reds are in the Goldilocks zone.

Spanish rioja, for example, is a crowd-pleaser. It goes with beef, pork, lamb, dry rubs or saucy barbecue and will make those smoky tones dance in your mouth. Try the Chairman’s Selection 111 Rioja Reserva 2018 ($12.99) with cherry and plum notes and silky tannins, or any of Campo Viejo’s line of Tempranillo Rioja ($12.49), Rioja Reserva ($17.69) and Garnacha Rioja ($11.39).

Equally luscious, but with a bit more structure, Rhône-style blends from France or Paso Robles feature a blend known as GSM — grenache, syrah and mourvèdre. Elegant and complex, sensuous and balanced, with red fruits and silky drinkability, a Rhône blend elevates expensive cuts like filet mignon, ribeye and racks of lamb. Favorite picks include Chateau Mont-Redon Châteauneufdu- Pape Rouge ($51.99) and Kermit Lynch Côtes-du-Rhône Rouge 2021 ($14.99).

For ultra-luxury cuts of heritage beef and wagyu, chat with your friendly wine specialist, who will be delighted to guide you to a bottle that’s equally a work of art, such as the Silver Oak Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 2018 ($174.99). It’s a wonderful vintage, showing big notes of blackberry, plum and cassis with spices, dried florals, toasty oak and a long finish, yet still a medium-bodied wine with a balance of intensity and freshness that brings out the savory intensity of artisan butchery.

Do any whites have a natural affinity for barbecue? Of course! When pairing shrimp, scallops, kielbasa, grilled white meats or dishes in ginger-based marinades, try a dry or medium-dry aromatic white such as Clean Slate Riesling Mosel ($13.49). It’s refreshing and crisp with clean notes of Asian pear.

Elevate Your Side Hustles

The right wine transforms classic sides into next-level culinary experiences. For creamy or cheesy sides like potato salad, twice-baked potatoes or mac and cheese, a California chardonnay such as Sonoma Cutrer Chardonnay Sonoma Coast ($23.99) has the perfect combination of bright apricot notes with baking spices and buttery vanillin that harmonize with those velvety textures, while the oak aging gives it an elegant structure capable of holding its own with rich main courses.

For corn-based dishes, fruity rosés such as DAOU Vineyards and Winery Rosé Paso Robles 2022 ($19.99) and Notorious Pink Grenache ($17.69) add a touch of sophistication and bright acidity that balances the sweetness of the side and a juicy intensity that stands up to the main course.

Grilled marinated veggies call for acidic and herbal dry whites that won’t overpower the food. Try a grassy sauvignon blanc bursting with tropical citrus such as Starborough Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough ($15.99) or Pennsylvania’s own Stony Run Winery Grüner Veltliner ($15.59). These are perfect on a hot summer day, with a nose of white flowers, honeysuckle and a lip-smacking green apple zing.

Chill When You Grill

During the summer months, chilled reds can make a substantial difference in enhancing your tasting experience. “Room temperature” in the great outdoors is too hot! Chill your red wine to 55–65 degrees and hold it in an ice bucket between servings. The flavors become more vibrant, the bright acidity shines through and the heat of the alcohol is less pronounced, bringing out the fruity and floral notes.

Another option, great for a crowd or by the pool, is canned or boxed wines. Always keep your wines and glasses out of direct sunlight — wines are photosensitive, and just as you’d never put a fresh, crisp salad on a preheated plate, you don’t want to ruin the delicate nuances of a fine wine by pouring it into a hot glass.

So relax, sip and enjoy with complete confidence that whatever is on your grill is delicious and perfectly paired. Please drink responsibly, and cheers to sunny days, starry nights and a wonderful summertime with family and friends!

Liz Tarditi is an entrepreneur and classically trained chef with 35 years’ experience in the culinary world. She holds a degree from Villanova University and graduated with honors from the Culinary Arts program at the Art Institute of Seattle. Liz has worked for Fine Wine & Good Spirits for five years, becoming a Wine Specialist in 2020. She enjoys pairing wine and food for special events and celebrations. See Liz at the Phoenixville Fine Wine & Good Spirits location.

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