A Quick Guide to Wines for BBQs
Grapes grown in hot climates (Mediterranean, Australia, Chile and California) ripen easily and the wines made from them are full-flavoured and taste sweeter/riper (think about strawberries and how the ripest berries are the sweetest).
Often there is more residual sugar in a hot climate wine than a cool-climate wine, hence they seemingly taste ‘sweeter’.
These characteristics match those found in barbecued food. The ripeness or sweetness in some wines also will balance the flavour of smoke and any heat and spice (just as sweet chutney balances hot curry).
Chicken: Vin de Pays, Californian or Australian Chardonnay
Lemon flavoured poultry or fish: Crisp Chardonnay
Sausages, hamburgers, steaks and chops: Australian Shiraz or Californian Zinfandel
Herby, garlicky white or red meat: Vin de Pays d’Oc white or red
Sardines and oily fish: Southern French white or Albariño
Shellfish: Chablis or Southern French rosé
Halloumi and Feta cheese: Vin de Pays d’Oc Chardonnay or dry Sémillon/Sauvignon Blanc blend
Grilled red pepper: Spanish Tempranillo like Rioja
Indian flavours: Oaked full-bodied Chardonnay (poultry, fish) or Red Loire , Australian Shiraz (red meats)
Thai flavours: Sauvignon Blanc
Fruity Vin de Pays, Languedoc or New World Wines
Sausages, Hamburgers and Steaks or Chops:
Red Vin de Pays or New World wines such as Australian Shiraz and Zinfandel
Seared, juicy and unadorned barbecued meats, like Sausages, Hamburgers and Steaks or Chops, are complemented by full-flavoured, fruity Red Vin de Pays or New World wines such as:
North American Zinfandel
These two wines are perfect with Barbecue Sauce too. The rich, caramelised, smoky, spicy flavours of char-grilled meat are best matched by wines from hot climates, which tend to be fuller flavoured and sweeter.
Warm-climate Chardonnay e.g. from Chile, California or Australia.
Chicken could be matched with warm-climate Chardonnays from California or Australia. If you prefer a more refreshing style of white wine try a Picpoul de Pinet, or an Assyrtiko.
These two would also be a marvellous match for oily fish like Sardines as the wines' natural acidity will cut through the fish's oiliness and leave the palate cleansed and refreshed, ready for the next mouthful.
Grilled Prawns or other Shellfish:
Chablis, unoaked Chardonnay, Picpoul
The intensified, sweet flavour of grilled or roasted vegetables requires full-flavoured and sometimes fairly full-bodied wines.
For example, roasted aubergines or red peppers, cooked with olive oil, have a rich, deep flavour that warmly embraces a Rioja or other Spanish Tempranillo. The tannin balances the oil.
Tempranillo-based wines or dry, Australian Semillon
Courgette, Mushroom, Onion and Tomato brochettes:
Low-tannin, light-flavoured Reds or medium to full-bodied, dry Whites
Salad Tomatoes, Asparagus: Sauvignon Blanc
Salad tomatoes, fresh, tangy asparagus favours a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc.
Barberas and other big Italian Reds These take on a richer flavour that brings deeper reds into play, such as Italian Barberas, Montepulcianno d' Abruzzo which also have quite high acidity.
Sauvignon Blanc or creamy Chardonnays
The varietal characteristics of Sauvignon Blanc are lovely with lemongrass, lime-Leaf and coriander and match the lively, fresh qualities of Thai food. Nutty, spicy Satay works well with creamy Chardonnays from either Australia or North America
Loire Reds, big, oaky Chardonnays from Australia
Tandoori is also popular as a marinade/sauce for a barbecue. This is not an easy flavour to match with wine, but Loire Reds and big, oaky Chardonnays from Australia work fine too.
Mediterranean Flavoured BBQs:
Languedoc-Roussillon and Vin de Pays Whites, Reds or Rosés
Flavours of the Mediterranean are quite common place at barbecues. Herbs such as Thyme and Rosemary, and Garlic, Lemon and Olive Oil are perfect for barbecued foods, evoking memories of holiday lunches in beach bars. For red meat dishes, match Garlic, Thyme and Rosemary with herby Reds from the Rhone, Provence, Languedoc Rousillion.
Grilled or barbecued Halloumi Cheese, Feta Cheese:
Alsace Riesling, Southern Rhône or Southern French Whites
Grilled or barbecued Halloumi Cheese needs a high-acid wine Southern French Whites have sufficient acid and body to cope. Alternatively you could balance the cheese's saltiness with an aromatic Alsace Riesling. These wines could also accompany Feta Cheese. A refreshing glass of White wine is a must on a hot, sunny day, and fruity Whites from Languedoc-Roussillon fit the bill perfectly. Be adventurous and try a little-known variety from this region like Picpoul from Coteaux du Languedoc.