The sun is shining, folks! You know what that means– it’s time to dust off the grill, and if you’re anything like us, you’ll be drinking some wine while you’re at it. Beer isn’t the only BBQ beverage, people! Sure, it’s great while standing next to the grill or inhaling massive volumes of sweet smoke while BBQ’ing but… but… once those tasty morsels come off the fire there’s simply better options to make that hard work sing! These perfect BBQ wine pairings will prove it.
So roll out the Webber, or the Traeger, or better still, the custom built pit from the good folks at Moberg Smokers and raid your cellar (then replenish with a Last Bottle favorite!) The summer barbeque starts NOW. Here are our favorite grilled and smoked meat wine pairings.
Beef and Pork BBQ Wine Pairings
Both steak and pork can be pretty versatile on the grill. If you’re making classic American barbecue (the fall off the bone, ultra succulent type) it’s best to think of sauce/rub first. The four dominant American BBQ styles are: Kansas City, Carolina, Memphis, and Texas.
Kansas City Style
Kansas City BBQ sauce has a thick consistency, and tends to be sweeter than a classic barbecue sauce. This sweet sauce is best paired with bold, fruity reds like New World cabernet franc from Chile or California and warm climate cabernet sauvignon like Napa, Paso, or Barossa.
Carolina sauce is vinegar based. Region is everything when it comes to BBQ, and the Carolinas are no different. North Carolina BBQ sauce runs on the sweeter side, and South Carolina BBQ tends to be spicier with heavier mustard flavors and an absence of tomato. For the sweeter North Carolina sauce, go bold and fruity with a petite sirah, a southern Rhône grenache-based wine or even a rich style of zinfandel blend. For South Carolina sauce, though, you’ll want something earthy and spicy to play with the mustard in the sauce, like pinot noir, Beaujolais, northern Rhône syrah, or Spanish tempranillo.
Memphis style sauce is thin, tangy, and smoky-sweet. Pair this with a fruity, medium bodied red like Lambrusco, carignan, mourvedre (Bandol works!) or a Sicilian Etna Rosso.
Texas style BBQ is all about the beef. The most famous of the regional Texas Q’s (it is a big state after all!) would be central Texas (does the name Franklin’s ring a bell?) Here, sauce is used out of necessity… and it is a source of profound shame. A 50/50 blend of good salt and black pepper is your base rub – with post oak and hickory smoke giving you all the flavor you need. Go big here with Napa cabs, Bordeauxs from both banks, Aussie shiraz, bold Brunellos and Super-Tuscans.
If you’re grilling a simple steak without a particular region in mind, choose your wine pairings based on the flavor of the meat itself. You’ll want a wine that enhances the umami of your steak while balancing the fat. Opt for a bold red wine with higher tannin levels like syrah or cabernet. The less fat your cut has, the less tannins you need to round out the palate. For lean cuts, pair with lighter reds like pinot noir or grenache. And when grilling a simple pork chop, try a juicy zinfandel, opulent chardonnay, or a dry riesling for a fattier cut of pork belly.
Barbecued chicken tends to follow two different flavor styles: herbaceous, or sweet. Dry rubbed grilled chicken tends to be herby, and saucy BBQ chicken is usually on the sweeter side– your wine pairing should compliment your seasoning.
For herby grilled chicken, pair a dry white wine like oaked chardonnay or pinot gris, off-dry riesling. If you’re opting for a citrus-forward recipe, enhance those flavors with light bodied wines like sauvignon blanc or verdejo.
If you’re going for a deeply saucy BBQ chicken, go for a more intense glass of rose like Spanish garnacha, Chianti, or even a rosé.
Grilled fish follows two schools of thought (get it? schools??) There’s the rich, buttery fish like halibut and salmon, and then there’s lean, saline fish like sea bass and tilapia. For the buttery white fish, opt for a bold wine like oaked chardonnay or grenache blanc while a fatty salmon works amazing with pinot noir or even a dry rosé. If you’re grilling a lean fish, pair with a light bodied, zesty wine like albariño, Txakolina, or assyrtiko.
Most of all, have fun, laugh with your friends, make new ones, and remember sometimes the gathering is less about the wines themselves, and pairings are just a fun, absolutely optional, component… but good wine is still a requirement – life is too short to drink bad wine!
Stay up to date on Last Bottle offers this grilling season and pair your BBQ like a pro.