What wine goes with BBQ? A good pairing depends on what kind of barbecue you’re making. Are you grilling or smoking? Grilling delivers a great, intense, charred flavor to food. This pairs well with wines that have oaky, coffee, or chocolate flavors. Smoking means the food’s exposed to heat for longer, and the meat has more time to caramelize. A gentler type of wine will pair well with this.
Beef and steak have good fat content, so they want flavorful wines to pair with. Cabernet sauvignon is a new oak wine that has the acidity to pair well with a burger. For steak, you might want something with bold flavor and a silken texture. This is where a malbec comes in.
A beef brisket is a little different. A tender, flavorful brisket pairs perfectly with a pinot noir. It had a marked acidity that creates a tremendous mouthfeel.
A cabernet or pinot noir is optimal here. Sauces and spices inform BBQ wine pairing quite heavily, and nowhere is this more prevalent than with pork. Pinot noir’s lighter fruit flavors go well with pork that’s prepared with a dry rub or otherwise isn’t slathered in marinade.
If you do use a marinade, the flavor of your pork becomes more acidic. Pinot noir‘s acidic profile makes it less pronounced here. It’ll pair well, but it’s not necessarily the best choice with a marinade. Here, a gentler cabernet that’s focused on fruit-flavor, structure, and finish will bring out the best qualities of the pork, your marinade, and the wine.
If you serve grilled chicken in a fresher style with herbs, grilled veggies, lemon, or rice, aim for a sauvignon blanc. This wine itself partners lime and herb flavors, so it completes the straightforward, fresh attitude of a plate like this.
Chicken that’s basted in BBQ sauce is another matter entirely. Here, a rose or off-dry riesling serves beautifully.
Lamb has such a unique taste that it can feel hard to pair right. This is the perfect spot for a merlot. Its complex balance of qualities (berries and pepper, wood note and round tannins) holds up to lamb very well. A cabernet is another good choice.
Fish is often prepared with an herb-forward flavor. You might think any white wine would work here, but you have to be careful. Chardonnay’s tropical fruit profile, with pineapple and grapefruit, is by far your best choice. One of the overlooked strengths of chardonnay is how its texture lasts. Fish lingers on the tongue due to its oil. Chardonnay possesses a velvety quality that lingers, the perfect complement to a number of seafoods.
What wine goes with BBQ is a set of rules you’re also allowed to break. Remember, BBQs are fun! Use the opportunity to discover what BBQ wine pairing you love. Choose what helps you relax. And while you’re breaking rules: if it’s really hot out, don’t be afraid to set a red wine in the fridge for 20-30 minutes before serving. This can draw the tannins back just a little bit and make the wine feel a little lighter and energetic.