Grilling is a summer staple for most American families.
Besides what to grill, the next most important question is whether you grill with gas or charcoal? It’s the “grate debate” for many families. Grill experts who swear by gas say the clean up is a breeze, while charcoal fanatics say it’s the authentic wood-smoked flavor they love. Either way, this is the season for grilling and what better to have on the menu than burgers, brats, chicken and fish. But take a pass on the beer this time and pour a chilled white wine or a hearty red; both go great with foods hot off the grill.
Here are some vino suggestions that will take your grilling experience beyond typical picnic fare and elevate it to extraordinary outdoor dining.
Whether it’s big meaty beef burgers, bison burgers or lamb burgers, there’s a wine that can pair up and make this meal special. Red meat burgers really do call for a red wine. For a great match try Syrah with beef or bison burgers. The peppery Syrah melds with that grilled burger taste and when you’ve taken that last bite, you’ll wonder why you’ve just poured beer for so long. Lamb burgers require more finesse, so decant a Cabernet Sauvignon for a flavorful meal. And you can’t go wrong with a hearty Zinfandel served with burgers hot off the grill.
Many think that brats are only great with beer. If so, then you’ve just never had the right wine served with them. Only one rule with this; stay with the German theme and pair brats with a German wine. For white vino lovers, a fruity Riesling is a refreshing summer pour with grilled brats. If you’d like something a bit sweeter with a hint of spice, then Gewurztraminer is the way to go. (And it can stand up to that mustard, too.) For red wine lovers, a Barbera with its dark red fruity flavors and a touch of oak will convince you that wine is perfect with brats.
Grilled chicken can put fried chicken to shame, if done correctly. And a nicely chilled white wine adds to the enjoyment. Look for an oaky Chardonnay with hints of butter, green apple and lemon to set the meal off nicely. If you’re a dyed in the wool red person, then the oh-so-subtle smoky flavors from the grill (if you’re using charcoal) will blend beautifully with a good Merlot. Fixing barbeque chicken? Reach for a California Rose’ with lots of fruity flavors to accent that tangy BBQ sauce.
When grilling fish, you want a nice meaty cut, so salmon is my summer go-to. And one word says it all: Pinot. If you prefer a white wine with fish, go for a crisp Pinot Grigio with the flavors of stone and tropical fruits. If the salmon is herb crusted, Sauvignon Blanc can make those flavors sing. For a tasty red, it’s Pinot Noir with hints of berry and supple tannins that accentuate the salmon’s savory taste. Even a touch of oak in the Noir won’t hurt with grilled fish. If you prefer your salmon blackened, kick it up a notch and serve Beaujolais or an earthy Zinfandel.
Don’t shun wine because you’re grilling standard fare, grab a bottle and explore some great taste sensations. You may find a new go-to pairing for the season.
By Joy Neighbors
Joy Neighbors, from eastern Illinois, knows the wine industry well. She writes a weekly wine blog, has judged national wine competitions, and speaks nationally and internationally. Follow her blog at http://joysjoyofwine.blogspot.com.