Our general Food Pairing Guide on our website is a great start when trying to decide on a wine to pair with your meal. However, with lovely weather prompting a start to barbecue season, we thought we'd bring you some safe wine styles to to accompany your sunny get together.
Combining the dominant rules for pairing - strength of flavour and dominant flavours of food - we can narrow down the perfect wine partners. Regardless of whether red or white meat, fish or vegetables, barbecue cuisine will always be full flavoured, combining a mix of Fatty, Spicy (pepper, tobacco), and Smoky (Umami) characters. There are several red wines that work across the board, as well as white and rose wines with enough depth to really bring out the best in your food.
Shiraz (Syrah) pairs excellently across all facets of barbecue flavours due to its full body, medium to high tannin content, and elements of tobacco and peppercorn mingling with dark fruit. With this in mind, you can go for lighter, easy-drinking styles such as Australia's Jammy Monkey, or Romania's cool-climate offering, Paparuda. Longer aged Shiraz wines that bring out more pepper and dark chocolate tones may be your preference. In this case Australia can provide The Opportunist (Langhorne Creek) and Bethany Creek (Barossa Valley).
If you want something with the highest tannins and lots of black pepper spice, the Syrah-Peloursin hybrid, Petite Sirah/Syrah (Durif) is the one to go for. Australia brings A Growers Touch, a rich and powerful savoury wine, North America brings Calfornia's Maggio that uses old vine grapes for nuances of black pepper, cocoa and vanilla, and Mexico's LA Cetto adds floral violet and black truffle to really balance smoky foods.
Another barbecue go-to is red Rioja. This is because the Tempranillo grape has good elements of clove and tobacco to complement spice, whilst the tradition of long barrel ageing in the region ensures a minimum of time in wood, usually at least 12 months in barrel and many aged in bottle before release. The wood ageing helps to match the smoke of barbecue cuisine, with ample leathery notes. With a wide range of foods to choose from, younger Rioja wines win out for versatility, such as Manoso's Joven or Crianza, or the Rioja Cuvee of Bodegas Tobia.
A good pairing for Umami flavours, Grenache-Garnacha is also a favoured blending partner of Tempranillo. As a varietal, warm-climate Spain is producing many that automatically match summery barbecue fare, bringing warm fruit and spice alongside its classic herbaceous character. Both excellent value from northern Spain, Aldeya Garnacha adds ample tobacco notes, whilst Delincuente Garnacha adds dried flowers and ripe tannins.
CHIANTI & NEGROAMARO
Fans of Italian wine needn't fear, as two styles spring to mind. The production of Chianti ensures a fuller character for the Sangiovese grape that brings out more tannins and spice to balance its acidity. Volpetto Chianti and Chianti Riserva are good examples, with an added bonus of pairing especially well with tomato-based sauces accompanying barbecue dishes.
Negroamaro is also worth trying, especially as it pairs particularly well with barbecued chicken and pork dishes due to its herbs and full fruit. Il Pumo Negroamaro adds notes of thyme into the mix, whilst their Salice Salentino which adds a touch of Malvasia into the mix for the perfect balance of fruit, spice and Mediterranean scrub.
Looking at white wines, Chardonnay is an immediate choice. As a grape, its fuller, creamier texture is essential to stand up to fattier barbecue foods, whilst oak treatment brings out many layers to complement the smoke and spice. Try classic Burgundy Macon-Lugny Les Crays with its forthright florals and fruit, Australian Killibinbin Shiver with tropical fruit and buttery texture, or 100% barrel-fermented Sabina Estate from Navarra, Spain, with citrus underlaying tropicals before a touch of oak on the finish.
Of course, Chardonnay does not have to be your choice, and there are many white wines that show the same layers of complexity. For example, Portugal's Quinta de Cabriz produce a beautiful organic white that blends native grapes for a wine that can pair with barbecued fish and chickpea dishes. They also produce a white wine made from the Portuguese red grape, Touriga Nacional. This means good body and layered flavour for pairing with barbecued vegetables, chicken and pork.
Riesling, particularly off-dry, is a favourite to pair with spicy, creamy curries. It's the floral, aromatic nature that also makes it a good choice for lighter barbecue dishes. On top of this, some skin contact during production can provide subtle tannins to complement smoky flavours. In this regard, Funkstille Skin Contact is a great choice, with this wine also benefiting from lees ageing and time in oak.
As mentioned above, skin contact can bring a roundness and depth to white wines that makes them able to often match foods more traditionally suited to reds. On the lighter end, Georgia's Ranina Kakhuri is exotic and mouth-filling, whilst Dugladze Tibaanii blends strength and elegance to match a range of barbecue dishes. More pronounced tannins are shown with Bulgaria's Libera Keratsuda; an intense and more-ish wine that can match the fullest foods.
For those who are exclusively rose drinkers, we suggest going for the bolder, deeper wines. The current trend is to look for lighter, Provence-style roses, but their high acidity will not match barbecue flavours, so step out of the comfort zone for a day! Castillo del Moro Rose uses that perfect barbecue partner, Tempranillo, whilst Solara Rose combines Merlot with the native Feteasca Neagra grape. Cervus Cepturum also blends Merlot, but results in an off-dry rose that holds some sweetness to complement spice.