It’s hard to believe that next Monday is Labor Day and will mark the end of summer, but here we are. Though the end of the season might have crept up on you, don’t let those final summer barbecues do the same. Stock some wines away to bring with you and pair with whatever’s grilling this weekend.
There’s a lot of literature out there on what wines pair best with barbecue, but like the method of cooking itself, I’m going to keep it simple with a few basic rules.
1. Think cheap. It’s a barbecue, not a banquet. Everyone’s just going to want to relax, drink whatever is closest at hand, and enjoy some hot meat. So don’t overthink the wine, and don’t overspend. Anything under $15 a bottle should be just fine.
2. Don’t rule out white wines. It’s summer. It’s hot. There’s no shame in drinking a white wine with barbecue. In fact, some of those really crisp New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs (including this one) or light-bodied Grüner Veltliners from Austria (like this one) might be just the palate-cleanser you want. Especially if you don’t want to fill up on beer. But hey, if you want bubbles, get a sparkling wine like Prosecco or Cava to curb your craving. Even if you want something heavier with the food, a selection of white wines is a great way to start out, but if you’re cooking up fish or chicken, these are the wines to pair with them.
3. Smoky meats, smoky wines. I don’t literally mean wines that are so oaky that they’re smoky. I just mean that wines that tend to have a smoky element to them such as cool-climate Pinot Noir (like this one from Oregon) or Syrah (like this one from Santa Barbara). They’ll go best with the meats that tend to absorb that barbecue smoke or are already seasoned to savory perfection, like link sausage or pork ribs. These wines have enough body to stand up to the meat, but not so much that their flavors overwhelm whatever special marinade or rub you spent all day prepping them with.
4. Think pink. Even rosé has a place at your barbecue. While you might equate rosé to white shoes, in that you’re not supposed to see them after Labor Day and you might feel like you’re pushing the envelope, the rules of wine…and fashion, for that matter, are changing. For the better. Rosés (like this one from Provence) even pair well with fattier fish and lighter meats. Their acidity cuts through the richness of the dish but doesn’t overwhelm those delicious, charry flavors.
5. Big red. Just as you would with any other meal, think about what you’re actually going to eat and pair the wine to it. If that means you’re going to be grilling up big beefy steaks, juicy hamburgers or succulent, sizzling ribs, time to buy a few bottles of full-bodied red wine such as an Australian Shiraz, Argentine Malbec, or Californian Zinfandel.
6. Chill that red wine. You’ve probably heard your favorite wine snob expatiating on the fact that “room temperature” for wine should actually be more like “cellar temperature” and thus colder than red wine is normally served. In this case, he or she has a point. Not only will the wine feel more balanced, but with the hot weather, chilling that red wine will actually make it easier drinking, better tasting, and an all-round smart move. Especially if it’s a lighter red like Beaujolais. Just don’t chill it as much as a white wine – 15 to 20 minutes in the fridge should do.
7. Sangria counts as wine. Normally, no. But in the case of summer gatherings, sangria is totally a wine option. Plus, I’ve found there’s nothing that gets people more excited than a great big bowl of ice-cold sangria with plenty of freshly chopped fruit and a big ladle. Add in the fun fact that sangria means “bleeding” or “blood-letting” in Spanish (probably because that’s what the red wine filtering down through the juice looks like) and you’ve got a conversation starter to begin chatting up that cutie you’ve been making eyes at all afternoon.
If you’re sick of the regular old red and white sangrias out there, here’s a little takeaway from me to you. A few years ago, I decided to mix up a little something special for my birthday pool party: rosé sangria.
My guests liked it so much, I couldn’t make it fast enough to keep the bowl filled. (Infer what you will about the rate at which my friends drink.) So just call me Eric Rosén, and think of me as you make your own batch of my special sangria.
Eric’s Rosé Sangria
- 1 bottle rosé (the cheap stuff, don’t spend more than $7-$8)
- 1.5 cup white rum
- 1 pint sparkling or soda water
- 2 cups strawberry lemonade
- 1 cup mango juice
- 2 cups fresh strawberries, chopped
- 1 cups fresh mango, chopped
- Optional: mint or basil sprigs
Chill all the ingredients in the refrigerator for several hours before preparation.
Pour bottle of rosé into punch bowl (or oversize pitcher, or insulated pourable cooler depending on the classiness quotient of your event).
Add mango juice.
Add strawberry lemonade until the color has resumed its rosy pink. You don’t have to use all the strawberry lemonade, but can include as much as you’d like for the taste you prefer.
Add chopped fruit to the mixture.
Serve in chilled glasses with ice and chopped fruit on top. If you’re feeling fancy, add a sprig of mint or basil for decoration.