The Best Wine For BBQ: A Complete Pairing Guide

Best Wine For Bbq Pairing

Sizzle into summer with the best wine for BBQ pairings. Taste the magic of barbecue and wine combined!

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Barbecue Meat Wine Pairings

When the summer BBQ fires up, it’s not just about the grill. Choosing the right wine can elevate your bbq experience, blending beautifully with smoky, savory flavors.

Although it might seem a bit daunting at first, once you grasp some fundamental principles of wine pairing, you’ll be confidently choosing wines that complement your BBQ dishes perfectly. The main aim here is to achieve balance, where the wine neither overpowers the food nor gets lost in its flavors.

So get ready to wine-d down with some perfect barbecue pairings!

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A Quick Guide To Popular Wine Varieties

So, let’s talk wine. Wine is a universe of flavors, colors, and aromas, as diverse as the regions that produce them. Whether you’re already a connoisseur or just starting your wine journey, it’s always good to revisit some of the most popular wine varieties.

Let’s take a closer look at the characteristics of some popular red and white wines, making your BBQ wine pairing even more enjoyable!

Red Wine

BBQ and red wines make a heavenly match! Here are some popular varieties when it comes to BBQ wines.

  • Cabernet Sauvignon: Known as the king of red grapes, this variety is full-bodied with high tannins and a note of dark fruit flavors like cherry and blackberry. It’s perfect with robust, meaty dishes.
  • Pinot Noir: Lighter-bodied with high acidity and lower tannins, Pinot Noir offers flavors of red fruit like strawberries, cherries, and raspberries. It’s versatile, going well with poultry, pork, and even fish.
  • Merlot: Medium to full-bodied, Merlot is noted for its soft tannins and flavors of plums, black cherries, and herbal notes. It’s a crowd-pleaser, pairing well with many dishes.
  • Malbec: Malbec is full-bodied with medium tannins and offers rich flavors of blackberry, plum, and black cherry with a hint of chocolate and black pepper. It’s a great match for red meat, particularly beef or lamb.
  • Cabernet Franc: Medium-bodied with lower tannins, it offers a mix of red and dark fruit flavors with a characteristic hint of bell pepper. It pairs well with lamb, pork, and poultry.
  • Zinfandel: A medium to full-bodied red, known for its ripe red fruit flavors and black pepper spice. It’s excellent with bold, hearty dishes.

White Wine

White wines bring a refreshing balance to the bbq scene. Here are some popular varieties:

  • Sauvignon Blanc: A light to medium-bodied white wine, Sauvignon Blanc offers high acidity with citrus and green flavors like grass, gooseberry, and passion fruit. It’s a refreshing partner for chicken, seafood, and spicy sauces.
  • Chardonnay: Known for its wide range of styles from crisp and minerally to rich and buttery, it can be lightly oaked or not. Its flavors often include apple, citrus, and tropical fruit, making it ideal for poultry and seafood.
  • Pinot Grigio: Typically light-bodied with high acidity, Pinot Grigio (or Pinot Gris) features citrus, pear, and apple flavors. It’s versatile and goes well with seafood and lighter dishes.
  • Chenin Blanc: Known for its high acidity, Chenin Blanc can be dry or sweet, with flavors of apple, pear, and sometimes a hint of ginger. It’s fantastic with spicy BBQ and poultry.
  • Riesling: Often off-dry to sweet, but can be made dry, Riesling offers high acidity with flavors of lime, green apple, beeswax, and petrol in aged examples. It pairs well with spicy food and poultry.
  • White Zinfandel: A type of rosé wine, White Zinfandel is an off-dry to sweet wine, featuring red fruit flavors like strawberry and raspberry. It’s a great option for those who prefer something sweeter and goes well with spicy BBQ.

General Guidelines for Pairing Wine With Barbecue

Pairing wine and BBQ is all about balance. Bold, flavorful meats love a robust wine that can stand up to them. Lighter dishes like grilled veggies or fish crave a delicate, fresh wine. Let’s break this down and explore some general guidelines that can help you in this exciting endeavor.

Weight: Heavy vs. Light Dishes

Firstly, it’s important to match the weight of your wine with the weight of your food. This is all about ensuring that one does not overwhelm the other. Robust, heavy dishes like a thick grilled steak or a rich BBQ pulled pork sandwich often have bold, deep flavors.

These kinds of dishes usually pair best with full-bodied wines that can hold their own against hearty meat. A wine like Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, or Malbec can be an excellent choice here, offering substantial tannins and rich flavors that can stand up to the intensity of the dish.

On the other hand, lighter dishes, such as grilled vegetables or delicate fish, require wines that can match their subtle, fresh flavors without overshadowing them. A Sauvignon Blanc, with its high acidity and bright citrusy flavors, or a Pinot Grigio, known for its light body and crisp, fruity character, can complement these types of dishes beautifully.

These wines add an additional layer of flavor without overpowering the dish.

Consider The Sauce & Seasonings

The sauces and seasonings used in your BBQ also play a major role in wine pairing. If your barbecue features a sweet, tangy sauce, like a classic Kansas City-style sauce, consider a wine that offers a touch of sweetness, like an off-dry Riesling or a White Zinfandel. The sweetness of the wine can help balance the sweetness in the sauce, creating a harmonious eating experience.

For spicy sauces or rubs, wines with a bit of sweetness and lower alcohol can be your best bet. They can help tame the heat while adding a delightful contrast. For instance, a slightly sweet Chenin Blanc or a Gewurztraminer can work wonders with spicy BBQ dishes.

Best Wine For BBQ Classics

Let’s dive into some iconic barbecue dishes and their best BBQ wine pairings.

Best Wine For Bbq Steak
  • Grilled Steak: A classic like grilled steak calls for a classic red. Reach for a hearty Cabernet Sauvignon to complement the robust flavors of the steak.
  • Grilled Chicken: Grilled chicken is versatile and loves a refreshing Sauvignon Blanc. If it’s got a spicy rub or sauce, consider a cool Rose.
  • Veggie Skewers: For colorful veggie skewers, a white wine like Pinot Grigio works wonders, bringing out the natural sweetness of the veggies.
  • Burgers & Hot Dogs: A flavorful, medium-bodied red like a Merlot is a go-to for burgers. For hot dogs, especially with tangy relish or mustard, try a Zinfandel.

Best Wine For Smoked Meat

Smoky, melt-in-your-mouth, slow-cooked meats need a wine that can hold its own.

Best Wine For Bbq Brisket
  • Smoked Brisket: When it comes to smoked brisket, the goal is to match its intensely smoky flavor and the rich, succulent nature of the meat. A Cabernet Franc, with its dark fruit and peppery notes, can hold its own against the brisket while complementing the smoky notes.
  • Smoked Pork Ribs/Pork Chops: For slow-smoked pork like pork ribs or pork chops, consider a Grenache. Its ripe berry flavors and a hint of smoky spice resonate with the sweet, caramelized exterior of the meat, making for a delightful pairing.
  • Smoked Sausage: Smoked sausages come in a variety of flavors, but generally, their rich, savory, and slightly spicy nature can be beautifully contrasted by a medium-bodied red wine. A Malbec, with its ripe dark fruit flavors and a hint of spice, complements the robustness of the sausage without overwhelming it.
  • Smoked Turkey: Smoked turkey is lighter in flavor compared to red meats, so a full-bodied white wine or a lighter red can work wonders. An oaked Chardonnay, with its rich, creamy texture and toasty notes, can complement the smoky bird, while a Pinot Noir, with its light body and high acidity, can help cut through the richness.
  • Smoked Lamb: Smoked lamb is known for its strong, distinct flavor profile. A Syrah, with its rich, dark fruit flavors, spicy undertones, and a hint of smokiness, is a brilliant choice, as it can mirror the intense flavors of the lamb, making each bite and sip a flavorful adventure.

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Best Wine For Grilled Seafood

Seafood, meet wine. A match made in barbecue heaven!

Best Wine For Bbq Seafood
  • Grilled Shrimp: Grilled shrimp loves a Sauvignon Blanc, with its zesty acidity and citrus notes.
  • Grilled Salmon: The rich flavors of grilled salmon pair wonderfully with a lightly oaked Chardonnay, bringing a balance of richness and acidity.
  • White Fish: Grilled white fish pairs brilliantly with a crisp, dry Riesling or a White Zinfandel.

It’s All About The Sauce: BBQ Sauce & Wine Pairings

Sauces can truly transform your BBQ, adding a whole new layer of complexity to the wine pairing process. They can vary widely in flavor profiles – from sweet to smoky, spicy to tangy, creamy to rich – which makes wine pairing a fun, adventurous experiment.

So let’s dive in deeper!

Kansas City-Style Barbecue Sauce (sweet, ketchup-based)

Kansas City-style BBQ sauce is known for its sweetness, with a tomato base often complemented by brown sugar or molasses. This kind of sauce can overpower lighter wines, so you want to aim for something that can hold its own.

A White Zinfandel, known for its light to medium body, lower alcohol content, and off-dry to a semi-sweet profile can pair perfectly, providing a counterbalance to the robust flavors without overshadowing them.

Alternatively, a ripe, fruity Grenache with hints of strawberry and spice can also work wonderfully, as it provides a nice contrast while still standing up to the robustness of the sauce.

Texas-Style Barbecue Sauce (smoky, spicy)

Texas-style sauce is famous for its smoky and spicy character. It’s often made with a combination of spices, tomato sauce, and sometimes a dash of brown sugar. The robust flavor profile of this sauce calls for a wine that can match it in terms of body and complexity.

A Syrah (or Shiraz) is a brilliant choice here. Known for its full-bodied nature and flavors of dark fruit, pepper, and smoky undertones, a Syrah can complement the smoky and spicy notes of the sauce while standing up to its robust flavors.

Alternatively, a Tempranillo, known for its savory, leather, and tobacco notes, can be a fantastic companion to the sauce’s smoky elements.

South Carolina-Style Mustard Sauce (sweet, tangy, mustard-based)

The South Carolina-style mustard sauce is all about that balance between sweet and tangy. The mustard provides a vinegary punch, while honey or sugar rounds it off with a hint of sweetness. This kind of sauce pairs beautifully with a wine that can match its tanginess while adding a hint of fruitiness.

Sauvignon Blanc is an ideal choice with its high acidity, herbaceous character, and tropical fruit flavors. The acidity cuts through the tanginess of the sauce, while the wine’s fruitiness complements the sauce’s sweet elements.

Alternatively, a dry Riesling, with its balance of acidity and sweetness, can also be a delightful partner for this sauce.

Alabama White Sauce (creamy, spicy, mayonnaise-based)

The Alabama white sauce is unique in the BBQ world with its creamy, spicy, and tangy profile. This mayonnaise-based sauce often contains horseradish, vinegar, and black pepper, offering a combination of richness and zing. The wine pairing for this sauce needs to balance the creamy richness while complementing the tangy elements.

A lightly oaked Chardonnay can do this job fantastically. It’s full body and creamy texture match the sauce’s richness, while the subtle acidity balances out the tanginess.

Alternatively, a Viognier with its floral aroma, stone fruit flavors, and creamy mouthfeel could also make for a delightful pairing.

BBQ Wine Pairing FAQs

Does red wine pair well with BBQ?

Absolutely! In fact, red wines often make a great pairing with barbecued meats due to their full-bodied nature and high tannin content, which can balance out the rich flavors of the BBQ. Wines like Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, and Zinfandel can stand up well to the bold, smoky flavors of grilled or smoked meats.

What wine goes best with BBQ chicken?

BBQ chicken pairs well with a variety of wines, depending on the sauce and preparation method. If you’re grilling a chicken with a spicy or tangy BBQ sauce, an off-dry Riesling or Chenin Blanc can help balance the heat. For a sweeter or smoky BBQ chicken, a medium-bodied red like Zinfandel or Merlot can complement the dish well.

Is white wine good with BBQ?

Yes, white wines can pair wonderfully with BBQ, particularly with lighter dishes like grilled seafood or chicken. Crisp, acidic whites like Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio can balance the richness of the food, while a lightly oaked Chardonnay can complement dishes with a creamier or buttery profile. White Zinfandel, a rosé wine, can be an excellent choice for spicier BBQ dishes.

Can I drink rosé with BBQ?

Rosé is a great choice for BBQ due to its versatility. Dry rosé wines offer the acidity of white wine and the fruit character of red, making them a good match for a wide range of BBQ dishes, from grilled seafood to smoky pork ribs. A sweeter rosé like White Zinfandel can also pair well with spicier, tangier BBQ sauces.

What type of wine pairs well with spicy BBQ?

For spicy BBQ, wines with a touch of sweetness can help temper the heat. An off-dry Riesling, Gewurztraminer, or Chenin Blanc can work well. On the red side, a fruity Grenache or Zinfandel can also stand up to the spice. Remember, it’s usually best to avoid high-alcohol wines with spicy food, as alcohol can amplify the heat.

What wine should I serve with BBQ steak?

BBQ steak, particularly heavier cuts like a ribeye or T-bone, pairs well with full-bodied red wines. Cabernet Sauvignon, known for its high tannin content and dark fruit flavors, is a classic pairing. Malbec and Syrah, both offering rich, bold flavors, can also complement the savory taste of BBQ steak.

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