Summer is the season for chilled white wine, with one big exception: barbecue! Juicy slabs of marbled meat, spicy sauces, the bitter-good taste of crispy skin — these are the flavors that scream for a red-winew that will stand up to the bold barbecue challenge.
But within the barbecue universe, there are unique regions. Chicken is subtler than beef; lamb has its own unique flavor profile; charring vegetables brings out their sugar content. When it comes to pairing barbecued food with wine, there are many considerations.
Our team of wine influencers put their minds together, and they’ve come up with some fascinating (and, maybe, occasionally counter-intuitive) suggestions for pairing wine and barbecue. Happy grilling! And don’t forget to sip while you’re searing.
Paul Hodgin’s Pick: 2017 Turley Wine Cellars Zinfandel Old Vines ($35)
You’ll fall in love with the ruby-ish purple color of this classic Paso Zin. Then you’ll fall for the pronounced accents of blueberry and cinnamon, perfect for the area’s signature barbecued meat, tri-tip seared with a salty garlic rub. Yet it’s not as heavy as you might think: the tannins are firm but not tyrannical. Bonus: a very long, extra spicy finish. Yum!
Raquel Royers (@watchmesip) Pick: Harney Lane Lizzy James Old Vine Zinfandel from Lodi ($36)
This Harney Lane Lizzy James Zinfandel is a big, juicy dark fruit bomb of a Zinfandel from Lodi. Hailing from the Lizzy James Vineyard, which is over a 100 years old, this Zin also shows a beautiful structure and complexity that stands up brilliantly with anything you want to slap on the grill this summer. My favorite pairings include ribs, steak shish kabobs or a juicy burger with blue cheese and grilled onion.
Tina & Liz (@millennialsdrinkwine) Pick: Fondo Bozzole Lambrusco: ($19)
We’re bringing bubbles to your bbq. Our pick this summer for a killer bbq red: Lambrusco. It had a reputation here in U.S. for being a cloying, low quality wine that was wildly popular in the 80s and then completely fell off the map. Today, you can find some knockout Lambruscos that are not only refreshing, but also dry (not sweet) and bursting with flavor and complexity.
One of our favorites is Fondo Bozzole’s Incantabiss Lambrusco Mantovano, A) because all of those words are fun to say, B) because it is so much more sophisticated than we ever expected Lambrusco to be! It’s a deep, ruby red sparkling wine, a bit higher in both tannins and acidity – perfect to cut through the fat of any meat you put in front of it. Some earthy flavors, red fruits, and even a little hint of balsamic on the palate. We’d pair it up with some brisket and sweet bbq sauce or a nice juicy steak.
Jose Rico (@pursuing_greatness_) Pick: Napanook Cabernet Sauvignon: ($80)
When the temperatures rise and the sunsets way into the evening, it means it’s summer and time to fire up the grill. One of my go to favorites and very easy to cook is a Santa Marian style Tri-Tip marinated in teriyaki and seasoned with Holy Cow rub from @meatchurch along with asparagus drizzled with a simple vinaigrette. I personally enjoy a big Cabernet with a big piece of meat. Napanook Cabernet has flavors of deep dark fruit and rich tannins – I’m partial to the 2015 vintage!. This Cabernet pair well with beef and vegetables that have been grilled with a slight char. Remember to decant your wine and enjoy your meal!
Karen (@master_mommelier) Pick: Zinfandels from Frog’s Leap, Ridge or Frank Family
Packed with jammy black and red fruit with a hint of spice, a red Zinfandel penetrates through every kind of BBQ sauce and stands up to any meat you decide to toss on the grill. Its big and bold with a mouth watering finish — complements sun drenched days, balmy nights or toddler nap time to perfection!
Melanie (@dallaswinechick) Pick: 2017 Pedroncelli Zinfandel, Bushnell Vineyard, Sonoma County ($26)
The Summer is all about friends, and over the years, I’ve come to develop a closeness with the Pedroncelli family. You will find multiple posts on my website including their 90th anniversary party in 2017 — marking their history and influence on Sonoma wine culture over the past 90 years.
I recommend the 2017 Pedroncelli Zinfandel, Bushnell Vineyard, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County, because this is a balanced wine that is perfect with food and drinks way above its average $26 price point. In my last review, I tasted notes of blackberry, boysenberry, dark chocolate, dark fruit, dried herb, baking spice and mocha.
Naushad Huda (@naushadhuda) Pick: My Favorite Neighbor Harvey & Harriet Red Blend ($30)
Yes, this bottle has received monster scores, but don’t put too much stock into that. Even though it needs more time in the bottle, this is a big delicious wine that can stand up to a big, grass-fed, mildly spiced sausage. Harvey & Harriet, named after the parents of famed Paso Robles winemaker Eric Jensen of Booker Vineyards this is a rich, black & blue fruit Cabernet blend. Fine tannins, violets, tobacco leaf mist stretched across a vanilla canvas from the French oak. Really enjoyed this bottle.
Justine (@heyjayrose) Pick: Denner Vineyards Ditch Digger ($63)
When pairing for a summertime bbq I like a wine that’s fruit forward, has some black pepper to it, and can be versatile with different meats. That’s why my pick is a Paso Robles GSM (Greanch, Syrah, Mourvedre blend) and my favorite is from Denner Vineyards. Give their latest library release a shot, the 2013 Ditch Digger! It’s a blend of 50% Grenache, 25% Mourvedre, 15% Syrah, 5% Cinsaut, 5% Counoise.