When the mercury rises and the grill gets fired up, you may find yourself reaching for a cold beer. But this year, whether your specialty is a secret sauce for burgers, dry rub for ribs or sourcing some of the best beef on the planet, punch up your barbecue with just the right bottle of wine. Across the range of fish, fowl, steaks or chops that might make an appearance over your fire, we have brilliant pairings covered with three families of wines.
Grenache and GSM blends (Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre) are stealth tools when it comes to backyard parties. Medium-bodied, juicy-fruited and often spicy, the wines pair beautifully with an enormous range of grill favorites, from chicken to salmon to pork (pass the ribs). When it comes to burgers, there’s really no foil as good as the dark berry and pepper notes in a California Zinfandel. Just keep to lower-alcohol versions if your secret sauce is spicy: High alcohol levels and the heat of chiles (did someone say chipotle mayo?) have a way of egging each other on. And if you’re grabbing your favorite cut of steak, there’s no reason to stray from Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. The generally firm tannin structure of Cab is softened by generous marbling in a steak like a rib-eye. And the slightly more succulent textures of Merlot play well with leaner cuts like hangar or skirt steaks. (Find a way to put soy sauce in the marinade.) One last note about Merlot, though. Don’t underestimate it! This red loves wild salmon as well as beef and for your vegetarian friends, it’s the perfect partner for Portobello steaks.