barbecue wine

Barbecue Wine-Pairing Tips

If you’re not grilling this Fourth of July weekend, you’re doing it wrong. Jim Cunningham, general manager of Merkin Vineyards Scottsdale, provides wine-pairing pointers (spoiler alert: ice-cold sparkling rosé is the only cure for a 115-degree day) for your summer barbecuing.

So, you’re invited to a summer barbecue. What is the perfect bottle as a host gift? The perfect bottle of wine for a host gift is one that can easily pair with your summer barbecue foods and weather. I lean toward lighter bodied wines with low tannins and higher acidity. Light in body does not have to mean light on flavor. I look for a lively white like Sauvignon Blanc, Spanish Albariño or our own Merkin Chupacabra Blanca which is a great blend of Riesling, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. For a spectacular bottle of red, follow the same mantra of lighter body, low tannins and high acidity. Cooler-climate Pinot Noir has always been a great choice but I suggest stepping outside the box. Try a Rhône Valley Cinsault which is full of fruit and bright acidity or our own Merkin Vineyards Tarzan Red, a mouthwatering blend of Tempranillo and Garnacha.

What do you consider the ultimate hot-weather wine? Honestly, anything you enjoy drinking is going to be the best but, if you’re a bit indecisive, I would certainly try an ice-cold sparkling rosé. It blends the best of both worlds, the lightness of a white wine and the fruit flavor of a red.

Why should revelers consider swapping out their beer or seltzer for wine for summer entertaining? Wine might not be the first choice for your summer reveling but is certainly worth the thought. You can Google a lengthy list of reasons why wine might be healthier, more nutritious or even the trendier choice but for me the real reason is how it enhances your meal. Wine is not there to just wash down your next bite with, but to elevate your experience. You can easily take your backyard soiree to the next level by pairing your traditional barbecue fare with your beverages and having fun doing so.

How would you pair wine with traditional barbecue fare? Pairing wine with your summer cook-out can be quite easy and much more forgiving than most think. Your lighter and lively white wines will be the perfect companion for summer salads and a full host of seasonal fruits. Add a touch of carbonation to your beverage and now your sparkling wine is exactly what your carby sides like fries, potatoes and pasta salads are begging for. I recommend trying our effervescent Chupacabra Bubbles to start off your meal and carry you up to the heavier dishes. 

Pairing your grilled meats comes down to one main component: sauce! If you have a traditional burger or hot dog fresh off the grill with minimal condiments, a lighter bodied red would be ideal. Think something like a GSM blend (Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre) like our Chupacabra Red. If your sauce game is what it’s all about for you, whether sweet and tangy or bold and spicy barbecue, you need to keep your wine pairing on the same level. As the flavor intensifies, kick up the boldness in your wine bottle too. Full fruit flavor of a Pinot Noir works wonders with pulled pork or brisket and a sauce that has a touch of sweetness. The smokey char of the grill is brilliant with a fuller bodied Syrah/Shiraz and it also carries its own up against something with a healthy dose of pepper. Our own Caduceus Cellars Primer Paso, a no-brainer Syrah blend, brings out the best of my flame-kissed steaks.

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