August 09, 2021 by Arden Montgomery

Best Wine for Barbecue

If you’re in the US, you’re probably used to drinking a cold, hoppy beer with your BBQ. It’s a classic staple at any backyard grill-off, Fourth of July fair, or other outdoorsy event. For many seasoned pitmasters, beer is the only beverage they’ll be caught with while their apron’s on. 

But wine is a magical libation with uncanny powers that allow it to elevate any dish with which it is paired — even the heartiest rack of ribs. If you’re wanting to make your next barbecue date into a tasting event, here is a guide that will help you pick the right Grenache for your gyros, Chardonnay for your chicken, and Bordeaux for your brisket. 

How to pair wine with barbecue

Barbecue dishes range from sweet, to savory, to incredibly spicy, and involve all different kinds of meat styles and veggies — so there’s no one-size-fits-all wine that you can choose. If you’re having a feast with all the sides and trimmings, there’s those to consider as well. Have you ever thought about what wine goes best with a classic potato salad? (Our sources say to try this 2019 Pedralonga Rias Baixas Albariño.)

But let’s focus on the main course. Barbecue is all about big, bold flavors, and lucky for us that makes wine pairings relatively straightforward. 

Anything beef — steaks, burgers, tenderloin, etc — must be paired with a full-bodied and tannin-heavy red. Cabernet Sauvignons and Bordeauxs are ideal for both standing up to the heaviness of red meat while also pulling forward some of their more subtle flavors. If the dish skews spicy, however, Zins can prove a little friendlier. 

Pork, chicken and other poultry like being served with dry, acidic white wines such as a Sauvignon Blanc.  Sweeter whites are also ideal for grilled fish, especially fattier swimmers like tuna or trout. 

Vegetable-forward dishes like skewers or veggie burgers love a chilled Rose, whose high acidity is an excellent match for the sweet and savory flavors of grilled onion, pepper, and mushroom. 

One thing to keep in mind is that it’s more important to pair your wine with the sauce, rather than the substrate. Sweeter sauces like classic BBQ or honey-based glazes call for acid-forward wines. A spicy red-pepper sauce should be served with a low-tannin red, or a sweet white such as a Riesling. 

Let’s take a closer look at some of our favorite wines for grill-day. 

Best red wine for barbecue

  1. 2018 Land of Saints Happy Canyon Cabernet Sauvignon – $27
    This berry-forward Cab Sauv is a versatile pair with most anything you could hope to find at a barbecue. Its tart-sweetness feels like it could make the base of a fantastic barbecue sauce, and the hints of yellow pepper, violet and dark chocolate at the end allow it to masterfully complement sweet, savory, or spicy sauces. Try with your favorite rib recipe, or a gooey medium-rare cheeseburger with Gruyere.
  2. 2019 Arnot Roberts North Coast Trousseau – $35
    Served cold, this citrusy, herbaceous red will take the place of beer as your favorite summertime barbecue drink. Whatever you throw on the grill will be happy to pair with the organically made Trousseau, but especially shawarma made with pork, red meat, or chicken.
  3. 2019 Sandlands Contra Costa Co. Carignane – $36
    This beautiful and rare bottle truly goes with any grilled food you can think of, but red meat and mushrooms are its favorites. Think of the Carignane as a Cabernet Sauvignon without the tannins — it’s mulling-like flavors of orange zest, cranberry, plum, anise and fennel won’t make your spicy barbecued beef ribs bitter. 

Best white wine for barbecue

  1. 2019 Tenuta di Castellaro Bianco Porticello – $21
    Grown in the volcanic soils of the Aeolian Islands of Italy, this white delights with its minerality and fragrant fruitiness. Dry but aromatic, we love to pair the Porticello with sweeter sauces, fatty sides, and generous servings of grilled chicken or tuna.
  2. 2016 Wonderland Project ‘White Queen’ Sonoma Chardonnay – $25
    Sweet, fruity, creamy, floral — this is the quintessential summer Chard that just begs to flow at your next cookout. Grown in the Sonoma Valley of California and aged in French Oak barrels, this dry white pairs exquisitely with poultry, but we especially love it alongside garlicky grilled shrimp skewers.
  3. 2020 Field Recordings ‘SKINS’ Orange Wine – $22
    We just had to throw a sneaky orange wine into this list. How couldn’t we? SKINS is a wine that sips like a smooth cocktail, with notes or orange, marzipan, apricot, peach and iced tea delighting your parched palate. If you have a cheesy side salad or an especially spicy seafood dish at your ‘cue, this is the perfect accompaniment. 

Best rosé wine for barbecue

  1. 2020 Château Montfrin ‘Paumiste’ Rosé – $18
    Summer in a bottle! Strawberries, peach, citrus and botanicals draw you in by the nose, and the flavor keeps you there with more tart citrus, pomegranates, and herbs. A blend of Syrah and Carignan, this Rosé is best served with smoked or grilled salmon steaks.
  2. 2020 Domaine de Marquiliani ‘Vin Gris’ Rosé – $35
    The freshest Rosé in our inventory by far, this wine is the ultimate pair for grilled veggie dishes and vegetarian burgers. Tart but sweet fruits on the tongue are a perfect match for savory peppers, zucchini, onion, and spicy corn. Or, if you’re an obligate carnivore, the Vin Gris also goes great with savory chicken.
  3. 2019 Clos Signadore Patrimonio Rosé – $40
    This wine doesn’t play well with red meat, but everything else is on the table — all the way to your wild barbecue desserts. Sweet, surprisingly savory, and fruit-forward, the Patrimonio is the perfect way to close out your celebrations alongside a spoonful of ambrosia salad, just after polishing off your honey-glazed pork ribs. 

Argaux’s wine pairing solution

Still skeptical that there’s a perfect wine to go with your oozy, savory hot-off-the-grill cheeseburger? Argaux is here to show you what’s what, with our Food and Wine Pairing Kit. We collaborated with Vanessa Price, author of Big Macs & Burgundy, to bring you a box of 2 to 4 hand selected wines that pair perfectly with fried chicken, pizza, gas station snacks and — yes — even barbecue. Have fun and drink deep while learning more than you ever thought possible about the married worlds of food and wine.

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