Barbeque isn’t just for beef any more. Yes, we all love a great grilled steak with potato salad, but when it’s really hot; it’s fantastic to have a grilled dinner that’s lighter in the tummy – with the right wines, of course.
That said, grilling and barbequing present their own challenges for wine pairing. The grill introduces char and smoke to the food, and marinades and barbeque sauces range from vinegary to smoky to sweet. It can be challenging to match, but don’t over think it. It’s summer, after all. I’m suggesting certain varietals, but remember, when in doubt, serve Rosé!
Barbeque chicken: The combination of juicy, sweet, smoky and tangy flavors in this dish means that you can go several ways. An oaky Chardonnay works to match the smoke flavor, a crisp Chenin Blanc cuts through the tang, and Beaujolais refreshes and melds nicely with all of the flavors.
Grilled seafood: What’s nicer than a piece of grilled fish, a skewer of shrimp, or scallops? Here in Seattle, we grill our oysters. The heat from the grill allows the oyster to steam in its shell, and it pops open when it’s done, all ready to scoop out and enjoy. That buttery or oaky chardonnay works here, as does that Chenin Blanc. If you’re grilling a mix of seafood, go for a Rosé.
Grilled corn: If you’re not grilling your corn, you’re missing out on one of summer’s best treats. Just pull back the husks, leaving them attached, remove the silk (after you’ve picked off most of it, rub the ear with a dry kitchen towel to get the stragglers), then submerse the ear in a cold water bath. Once it’s thoroughly wet, pull the husks back up and grill on medium heat for about 15 minutes. This direct heat method caramelizes the natural sugars in the corn, and with the smoke from the grill, creates summer’s best side dish. An oaky Chardonnay is perfect with this, as is that crisp Chenin Blanc.
Baked Beans: This can get tricky, as baked beans are usually sweet, sometimes sickeningly so. If I’m serving commercially prepared baked beans, I usually drain off most of the sauce and add mustard and/or horseradish to add some spice and counteract the sugars. Beaujolais or Rosé works here, as does Shiraz.
Grilled Fruit: Since you’ve got the grill on, why not go all the way and grill your dessert? Peaches, nectarines, and figs all become more intense when grilled. Just cut the fruit in half, remove the pit and brush with a little oil. Put the fruit cut side down on the grill over low heat and let cook for a few minutes. Serve with ice cream, crème frâiche and cookies – along with a sparkling wine like Moscato D’Asti and you have a simple, swoony dessert.
S’mores: Ok, it’s later now, the coals are cooling, but everyone wants something sweet. It’s time to spear those marshmallows and make S’mores. You can use mass produced chocolate, but why not try an artisanal one? Just bear in mind that dark chocolates with their lower fat content won’t melt as fast as milk chocolate. That said, many chocolate makers are creating really interesting flavors these days – a few squares of ginger, chili, or mint infused chocolate will make for more interesting S’mores. Pair this complex, sweet treat with a Framboise, Ice Wine or Orange Muscat (Quady Essensia is a slam dunk).