Here in Southwest Florida, we have the benefit of being able to grill, cookout and barbeque year round. For all of us northern transplants, this a very big deal. It means almost endless opportunities for grilling newbies to expand their horizons with more than just burgers and for grilling aficionados to perfect their techniques on unusual meats or alternative fishes.
With such a variety of grilled foods and grilling styles, our options for what to drink broadens as well. While visions of California Zins and Argentinean Malbecs symbiotically matched with juicy steaks are floating through everyone’s minds, there are countless other pairing options that will surprise and entertain guests at your next barbeque.
One of the reasons the aforementioned Zins and Malbecs harmonize so well with the classic steak on the grill is due to the oak flavors in those wines. So if your menu will be featuring charred foods or meats cooked with the direct method on charcoal grills, you will want to include wines with noticeable oak flavors. In addition to the go-to Zins and Malbecs, a toasty California Chardonnay or Australian Shiraz is bound to please. For line ups including flame-grilled chicken or pork loin, try a barrel aged California Pinot Noir.
When spicy barbeque sauces will be taking center stage, there are compatible options in both reds and whites. Full bodied, high alcohol, dry reds work to balance the spice, so bring out a Chilean Carmenère or Italian Barbera. Big bold reds such as these are generally served between 59-64˚ but it would be a good idea to chill the wine a bit cooler as the decreased temperature will counteract the heat.
If a white wine is desired, go with a light bodied, low alcohol, sweet white. An Italian Moscato or a German Riesling will work very well. Please note though, not all Rieslings are sweet and a dry one just won’t compliment the spicier fare the way a sweet one will.
One of the main principles of wine and food pairing is that bitter food and bitter wine accentuate each other’s bitter qualities and do not go well together. So, if you’ll be indulging in meats with turmeric based spice rubs or salmon steaks seasoned with dill you will want to avoid tannic wines and explore an Oregon or Burgundy Pinot Noir. Similarly, in season staples, broccoli and brussels sprouts, may make their way to an avid grillers repertoire and are inherently bitter, so avoid oaked wines and try go with a Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand or Chenin Blanc from South Africa.
Grilled fish generally tend to pair well with lighter reds and a wide variety of whites. If a fish is delicate or flaky it is usually grilled en papillote which limits the amount of grill flavor imparted to the fish.
That being said if flounder or sole is on the agenda, it will generally complement the same Sauvignon Blancs or Pinot Grigios it would have had it been pan-fried or baked. To liven things up, try a Spanish Albariño or Argentinean Torrontes. They will go just as well as the old standbys and add an unusual twist.
For Mahi, Grouper, Snapper and their meatier brethren, a full-bodied Chardonnay or a single varietal Grenache (Garnacha as they say in Spain) is light and zippy. Heavy fish including tuna, salmon, and shark go very nicely with a cool region Merlot. Other grill favorites from the sea include barbequed shellfish. Two good matches that are off the beaten path are Italian Greco di Tufo and Spanish Verdejo. A rosé from Province will please the crustacean loving senses as well.
Since it’s always a great time here in Cape Coral to try some new wines while perfecting your grill skills. Wow the guests at your next barbeque with some of these fresh and fun wine pairings.