Best Wines for Weekend Grilling

Some bold wine choices to match the boldly flavored food coming off the grill this summer

Whether you use charcoal, wood, electric, propane — or even dig a hole in your backyard to make an old-fashioned wood-fired grill — warm weather weekends are a time for us to roast, toast, char, and put grill marks on our food.

When it comes to knowing what wine to drink, here are some traditional, edgy, and off-the-wall pairing suggestions. But remember — in the end, wine and food pairing is a matter of personal preference, so try your wines in advance before you put them on the table. 

 

The dish: Marinated portobellos
Traditional: An earthy, somewhat spicy, lighter red wine such as a Côtes du Rhône.
Edgier: A Cabernet Franc from the East Coast with pencil-lead notes.
More off-the-wall: A Tannat from Uruguay, such as Pueblo del Sol, with its blend of mellow fruit and spicy bitters finish.

 

The dish: Chicken with tangy BBQ sauce
Traditional: Merlot-based rosé from California's Monterey County.
Edgier: Search out a citrus-accented rosé made from Sangiovese grapes, perhaps one from Emilia-Romagna.
More off-the-wall: And while we're in Emilia-Romagna, let's go really radical with a sparkling Lambrusco, the fruity-but-fresh every-night wine in many homes in the region.

 

The dish: Strip steak
Traditional: Nothing goes better with steak than a Bordeaux red, so try a less-expensive but sturdy one labelel Bordeaux Superieur or Côtes de Bordeaux.
Edgier: Surprisingly, Barbera d'Asti is seldom mentioned as a steak wine, but it makes an excellent one.
More off-the-wall: A sturdy, lightly spicy Kadarka from the south of Hungary.

The dish: Salmon and tuna steaks
Traditional: Try an oaky Napa Valley Chardonnay if you are an only-white-wine-with-fish drinker.
Edgier: Lighter Pinot Noirs have become quite a popular choice to serve with heavier fish, but have you tried one of the medium-bodied Pinots from the middle Loire area around Sancerre?
More off-the-wall: A Pinotage from South Africa, the cross between Pinot Noir and Cinsault with good acidity to cut the fattiness of the fish — just be sure to get a recommendation from your wine merchant as the quality varies widely.

 

The dish: White fish and shellfish
Traditional: I love Muscadet from the lower Loire Valley with shellfish, and it goes equally well with a grilled sole or similar fish.
Edgier: A crisp, but fruity Riesling from Australia's Clare Valley such as Grosset or Pikes — its slate minerality will balance the char.
More off-the-wall: A lightly herbal white Vermouth on the rocks (a Virgin Martini).

 

The dish: Hot dogs and Italian sausages
Traditional: A Merlot from Monterey County with its round fruitiness
Edgier: A blend of Rhône-style grapes from Paso Robles.
More off-the-wall: A tangy, spicy red from the south of France, such as Chapoutier Bila-Haut Côtes de Roussillon Villages.

 

The dish: Vegetables in oil
Traditional: A Sauvignon Blanc from Sonoma County, which can match a range of veggies with its combination of fruit and acidity.
Edgier pairing: A lovely, medium-dry sparkling Vouvray made from the lightly vegetal Chenin Blanc.
More off-the-wall: A light red from Slovenia, such as the Pullus Modri Pinot, with its Beaujolais-like fruit-and-herbs flavors.

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