Barbecuing and White Wine - an Adventurous Pairing!

Bay Area BBQ Islands

Let’s face it, we’re in the middle of wine country. Not that this is a bad thing, quite the opposite, really! When you think about it, people travel from all over the world to see Napa and the surrounding areas in order to get their fill of quality wine and wine tasting. We, however, do not need to go so far. Living in this area certainly has benefits and one of those is quality food. Wine and food can be best friends when paired correctly, but often times what we think goes well with a particular vino, might not be as complementary as we thought. So, today we are going to go over the types of white wines, what their personalities are, and what kind of grill fare they pair best with.

The best way to get this party cooking is by starting on the lighter side, and by lighter I mean light, dry, and white. There are a few styles of wine that fit into this category, first up is Sauvignon Blanc. This wine is characterized by its “green and herbaceous flavors” according to Madeline Puckette of It also comes from one of the most versatile and commonly planted wine grapes. Hailing from old country France, this particular wine has been around for a while and has great appeal when food pairing.

Another great white that hangs out in the same circle as the Sauvignon Blanc is the Pinot Grigio. Although there are three varieties of this style of wine, we’re going to focus on the minerally and dry. Produced in Northern Italy and other mountainous European countries, this Pinot is an acidic but simple breath of sunny days and good food.

We can’t forget the Spanish wines. Albarino is a lesser known but never forgotten addition to our whites. Much like the Pinot Grigio, the Albarino is perfectly dry. It does, however, boast a healthy citrus tang which is very different from many white wines.

Last but not least in the dry variety is my favorite one to pronounce: Gruner Veltliner. A very exotic lime and green pepper flavor, these wine grapes are almost always grown in Austria. The most common description for this particularly interesting dry white is the initial sip is almost like pop rocks in your mouth! It sounds crazy, but I think they’re onto something over there in Austria.

So, what makes these particular libations come together in their mutual pairings? Each individual wine has a particular item it pairs best with, but sometimes you just want to throw some dinner on the grill and not worry about the age of your cheese. If that sounds about right, here are a few things you can toss on the barbeque that will compliment your wine choice:

Leafy greens– A salad, spinach, or why not go crazy and…dare I say it…a SPINACH SALAD! Most green veggies will pair well with these wines, but avoiding brussel sprouts and artichokes is recommended. Think BBQ side dish!

Roasted Veggies– The perfect thing to throw on your barbecue to compliment your protein AND your wine is some veggies! Sweet potatoes, onions, and peppers can all be cooked on the grill and get that smoky caramelized note which sits well with the dry simple whites.

Fish- Think salmon, halibut, and Mahi Mahi; these luxurious proteins are the perfect main dish to be plated with a glass of white wine because of their unique, but not overpowering flavors.

Another distinctive type of white wine is the sweet white wine or dessert wine. Because of the higher sugar content and very broad flavor palate this delectable drink garnered a bad reputation a couple of decades ago but has recently made a strong comeback. The first and most notable of the collection is the Riesling; A boisterous, fruity, and fun wine of a German origin.

Much like the Riesling, Chenin Blanc is a fruity, sweet wine. Even though it originates from the same area as the Sauvignon Blanc, the Chenin Blanc is VERY different and not in just flavor. The winemakers use a different process with this particular wine; by stopping the fermentation early there is leftover nutrients and sugars in the wine. This process also helps in the aging process so it last a lot longer than its dry counter parts when stored properly.

Last but not least on this delightfully sweet list is the bubbly and sweet Moscato. Although the name is Italian, the moscat blanc grapes are rumored to be one of the first cultivated white grapes to be used for wine making around the world. Sweet and usually bubbly or fizzy Moscato wines are refreshing and more than just a dessert wine.

Like their dry counter parts, each sweet white wine has a pairing to which it is bonded by mutual appreciation of flavor, but sometimes you have to step away from the known and into the somewhat slightly lesser known. For instance, take these barbecue friendly pairings:

Spices: The sweet wines are one of the few selections that can pair well with a multitude of strong spices from cinnamon and ginger to mint, cayenne, and cilantro. So don’t be afraid to get creative with those spice jars!

Smoked Meat: Because of the fruity nature of these wines smoked meats are a must have. So, give your barbecue a break and crank up the smoker before your next afternoon get together.

This wine grape only has one word for you: Rich. Rich white wines are like: “butter in your glass” according to Puckette, and at the top of her list is Chardonnay. This single grape wine comes from the most planted white wine grape in the world and that has got to count for something!

Next wine under the microscope is the Viognier. Unlike its mighty counterpart Chardonnay, the Viognier is not commonly planted and is only grown in a very small area of France. These aren’t your grandma’s table grapes, but that doesn’t stop the warming sweetness of its floral undertones from making itself pretty popular in the U.S.

Rich white wines are known for their almost oily texture and rich creamy tastes which is what makes them perfectly suited for these grill pairings:

Roasted Veggies: using salts and herbs on your potatoes, onions, garlic, peppers, and anything else you can think of can really add a kick to any roast vegetables you grill to go with your wine.

Shellfish: Because of their unique flavor and varying textures shellfish like shrimp, mussels, and crab pay a buttery compliment to any rich white wine.

Chicken: As a versatile and easy to prepare protein, chicken can be rich or subtle depending on the way it is cook. The smoky caramelization from grilling can battle with rich white wines so marinating and wrapping in foil to seal in the moisture is recommended.

One of the most versatile and fun wine styles has to be the sparkling wine. Arguably, the most famous being Champagne. This bubbly and refreshing wine is French in origin and names after the region in which it was traditionally made. With flavors ranging from nutty to fruity, champagne is as refreshing in the summer as it is for an evening toast.

Much like Champagne, Italy’s Prosecco is bubbly and refreshing. Unlike its counterpart the method in which it is made is very different. Referred to as the “tank method” Puckette explains: “…the wines are aged in large tanks with less pressure Prosecco bubbles are lighter, frothy and spritzy…

And then Spain had to have a go at it too, introducing Cava! Spanish wine maker use the same method as the Champagne makers and allow secondary fermentation in the bottle to get the bubbly fizzy body and by adding different types of white grapes they have achieved everything from sweet and fruity to nutty and warm.

Quite the selection of bubbly, huh? Well, we all see people toasting the night away, but what do they eat after the salutations? Sparkling wine actually pairs well with quite a few different items so take a look and see which ones you have on hand to throw on your grill.

Leafy Greens: Once again, please don’t try to grill these! We were thinking more of a side dish like Caprese with lots of basil, or a nice spinach salad.

Fish: The fizzy nature of sparkling wines pair perfectly with grilled fish! Maybe some marinated Mahi Mahi or lemon zest salmon. Think less smoky and more citrus.

For every wine paired, there are many more brands, styles, and flavors out there to explore in this gorgeous northern California wine country. Next time you are at the store or your local winery, grab a bottle. Whether you grab something new and unique or an old favorite to pair with your grilled fare make sure you compliment it with a quality wine to really bring out the personality in your food and drink.

Source: Bay Area BBQ Islands


Categories: Entertainment, Wine, Outdoor Grills and Barbeques

Tags: bbq, bbq wine pairing, grilling, outdoor grilling, wine pairing

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