The smoke and spice of many grilled foods can make wine pairing a challenge — but a highly pleasurable one. Happily, the vast world of wine offers tastes that will match any palate and any grilled dish, whether you’re looking for a light, simple summer wine to serve with casual barbecue or a serious red to complement an elegant cut of meat.
Sip a red Meritage or a Cabernet Sauvignon with big flavors and a tannic finish alongside your steak or burger.
RECIPE: Stuffed Burgers with Pepper Jack Cheese
Since fruit works so well with pork, a jammy, fruit-forward Zinfandel would be perfect.
RECIPE: Jalapeno-Peach Pork Tenderloins
Any New World Shiraz with a good peppery finish will cut through the fatty richness of lamb.
RECIPE: Grilled Leg of Lamb with Mint Raita
Chardonnay with little oak works well with simply grilled chicken. A Viognier with notes of apricots, peaches and pears is nice with quail and duck. Turkey is a challenge; most will go with a Riesling, but a lighter Zinfandel is a surprising change.
RECIPE: Grilled Chicken with Arugula Pesto
With seafood, try a Champagne from the Côtes des Blanc region of France, light and not overpowering, or a standby Sauvignon Blanc, with their citrus herbaceous crispness. Don’t overlook Pinot Noir, particularly with salmon and tuna; these wines feature notes of raspberry, strawberry and plum with a hint of smokiness.
RECIPE: Grilled Salmon with Lemon and Dill
Sancerre, with its grapefruity acidity, pairs beautifully with crab. Muscadet de Servre-et-Maine, with its soft and creamy citrus notes, knocks oysters to a different level. With any shellfish, try a good Chablis, flinty with hints of vanilla.
RECIPE: Salt-and-Pepper Shrimp
Grüner Veltliner is crisp and slightly spicy, making it a nice choice as the natural sugars of most vegetables come out when grilled. Sauvignon Blanc with its herbaceous, grassy notes has long been paired with asparagus and even tomatoes.
RECIPE: Asparagus with Saffron Aioli
Riesling and Gewürztraminer both have a sweet component to offset spiciness. Riesling’s peach and floral essence or Gewürztraminer’s rose and spice crispness can temper a spicy marinade and let the underlying flavors shine through.
RECIPE: Grilled Tofu Kabobs with Spicy Marinade
A Bandol rosé is always good with a barbecue sauce; it is even keeled and can handle any sauce you throw at it. A Barolo that’s at least 5 years old is earthy, with hints of truffles and a bit of chocolate, and sturdy enough to stand tall with a tangy sauce that complements it at the same time.
RECIPE: Basic Barbecue Sauce
Visit Williams-Sonoma Wine to shop our favorites. What wine do you serve at your summer cookouts? Tell us in the comments!