By Michelle A. Sieling
Barbecues are one of the simplest yet most enjoyable meals. It’s hard not to like dining al fresco on a back porch or patio in the warm evening air. What makes it even better is a good beverage to accompany the meal. The question, is, what to drink?
Beer or Wine?
Though traditionally beer has been seen as the accompanying refreshment of choice for barbecue, wine has been growing in popularity. The variety of food choices, from simply grilled fish to sweetly sauced ribs, can make picking an appropriate wine seem tricky, though. But like any other meal, pairings follow the same general guidelines. Here are a few tips and examples that can heighten your outdoor wining and dining experience.
Because meat is the emphasis at a barbecue, when in doubt, pick a red wine. And in most cases, make it a Zinfandel. Its versatility works with everything from burgers to chicken to sausage to heavily sauced ribs. Merlot is another safe bet for the grill, especially a heavier one.
Poultry and game can do well with a fruity, floral and aromatic Pinot Noir like L’Oliveto ($22, Ferry Plaza Wine Merchant). For more elegant cuts of beef, like a filet, you could try a Rhone, like Clefs des Murailles Vacqueyras ($20, Ferry Plaza Wine Merchant).
Hot Weather? Try a Chilled Rosé, Sauvignon Blanc or Sparkling
Because of the warm weather, though, you might want to sip something colder. A rosé, like Chateau La Gordonee ($17, BevMo!), splits the difference between the need for something cold vs. the need for something that can stand up to grilled meat.
For lighter fare, like grilled salmon, chicken or asparagus, wines of corresponding weight, like a chilled Sauvignon Blanc from Duckhorn ($14 for 375 ml, Whole Foods) or a Pascal Jolivet Sancerre ($23, BevMo!). Sparkling wines, like a Roederer Brut ($22, Whole Foods), also can stand up to a number of food pairings because of the way that the wine will scrub your palate for the next rich sauce or charred meat, but save the fancy champagne for New Year’s Eve.
Spicy, Saucy and Sweet
It’s easier to choose when you are considering simply grilled foods like the ones mentioned above. It’s more complicated when sauces come into play. A good rule of thumb is sweet wines, like Riesling, for spicy rubs or sauces, like Texas style, and something tart, like sparkling wine for sweeter sauces, like Kansas City-style sauce. When it comes to more acidic sauces, like the vinegar-based North Carolina-style sauces, you will want to match it with something acidic, like a sparkling wine, too.
In the end, you probably will be pleased whatever you choose, but it doesn’t hurt to take the experience of barbecuing up a notch.