Wines and BBQ


Washington, D.C., is a backyard BBQ-grilling-cookout town. If there’s any little sliver of grass available in the city, folks are out throwing down a blanket on it for a picnic. Those with backyards have set up a grill and are cooking out on it or on their patios.

A perusal of neighborhood backyards will result in finding everything from space defying little picnic table top grills to massive stainless steel Viking outdoor built-ins gleaming bright in the sun. Beside most of those grills you will be sure to find long neck bottles of beer in tubs or kegs of beer. But what is the wine lover to drink?

Pairing a good wine with grilled foods or picking one to bring to a cookout can sometimes be a daunting task. The thought of trying to find a white wine to stand up to grilled meats or a red that won’t be too heavy in the summer heat can stump many. Fear not! Here is a list of food and wine parings that will make your next cookout a breeze.

There is a rule of thumb when pairing wine and food to pair simple wines with simple foods. That piece of advice goes a long way when it comes to finding the right wine to serve at a cookout. But this adage doesn’t mean you should sacrifice quality. It means you don’t have to serve a very complex wine with your hot dog or hamburger. So relax. You don’t have to look for anything fancy unless of course, you want.

The second rule to remember is that it is sometimes easiest to pair wines from a country with foods and flavors that come from the same region. Let’s say you are going to grill Italian sausage. A good wine to go with them would be Chianti. Chianti is from Italy. An Italian wine with Italian sausage. What could be simpler? Chianti is made primarily from the red grape Sangiovese. Sangiovese is very food friendly. Look for a Chianti Classico or Superior.

If you are throwing some “shrimp on the barbie,” ice down a bottle of Oregon Pinot Gris beforehand. Pinto Gris is made
from the Pinot Grigio grape. However, Pinot Gris is richer and spicier. You will experience more citrus flavors and floral aromas.
The richness will complement the smokiness of grilled flavors of the shrimp without over powering the delicate minerality of the meat.

Red Zinfandel is a truly American wine. It is generally not produced anywhere else in the world (however, the same grape is used in Italy to produce Primitivo). So, it is apropos to pair it with BBQ short ribs. The tangy smoky sweetness of the meat with marry well with the earthy, dark cherry, and pepper flavors of this wine. Red Zinfandel is medium bodied so it will stand up to the hearty flavors of the smoky grilled meat.

And speaking of meat what backyard grill master would dare to throw a cookout without a good old flame kissed hamburger? Grilled beef and red wine are a match made in heaven. But when it is ground and put between a bun with cheese, ketchup and mustard, it can be a tricky food to pair with a wine. Look to another very food friendly red wine, Rioja to complement a burger. Rioja is from Spain and it is made from the temporally grape. While Rioja has enough structure and weight to stand up to the fire charred beef and strong flavors of the mustard, it has enough milder tannins. And its traditional flavors
of berries, plum, tobacco, vanilla, and herbs will enhance the flavors of a simple burger well.

Don’t forget to cool off your reds before serving. 10 minutes in the fridge before serving should do it. Happy grilling and pairing!

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