When it comes to wine, I know what I like when I taste it. But that doesn’t always mean I know what I’m going to like while perusing the wine store shelves, backyard dinner party imminently approaching. To get ahead of the curve for this summer’s BBQ season with as few duds as possible (and without just knee-jerk buying another bottle of rosé), I turned to a few folks who know way more than I do about about which varietals and specific bottles go best with barbecue, among other grilled foods. Read on for their go-to summer wine picks—for the most part, all are under $25, with a few steals for less than $10.
Courtney Schiessl, sommelier, wine consultant, and writer who has worked with some of N.Y.C.’s top restaurants, including Marta and Dirty French:
Vinho Verde in general is a great option for grilling season and summer barbecues because it is fresh, versatile, and affordable—many options cost less than $10. Aveleda ‘Quinta da Aveleda ($6.99) typically clocks in well under that price point; it’s a blend of Loureiro and Alvarinho, and is light, fresh, and zingy, with tons of tart citrus flavors. Anselmo Mendes ‘Contacto’ Alvarinho ($17.99) is one of the higher-end wines from the region, and it’s still under $20. It has bright citrus and ripe apple fruit, but there’s also plenty of savory, smoky minerality to meld with charred notes from the grill. It’s especially great with grilled seafood and vegetables, but don’t hesitate to try this bottle with meat, too.
Dry Lambruscos are such great crowd-pleasers, especially for fun, casual grill time hangs. Fiorini ‘Becco Rosso’ Lambrusco ($12.99) isn’t your mom’s sweet, syrupy Lambrusco. With tart black cherry and berry fruit, along with earthy tones, this wine will satisfy red drinkers, but it’s also bubbly and best served chilled, which will please white and rosé lovers. It pairs perfectly with all kinds of grilled meat, chicken, seafood, and sides. Plus, there’s never a bad day to pop some bubbly.
The Syrah grape, particularly when grown in France, is reminiscent of a barbecue all on its own. It typically has notes of black pepper, smoked meat, and savory herbs along with red and black fruit tones, which is why it’s a natural pairing with grilled foods. Vincent Paris Syrah Collines Rhodaniennes ($12.95) is an affordable option from one of the northern Rhône’s top winemakers, which makes it a fresh, medium-bodied version over some of the more serious, expensive examples. Try serving it with a light chill to boost refreshment when the temperatures get hotter.
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Helen Johanneson, proprietress of Helen’s Wines and beverage director for LA’s Jon & Vinny’s, Animal, Son of a Gun, Petit Trois, Trois Familia, Trois Mec & Kismet:
There are so many gems out there when it comes to the perfect wine for Grilling and Chilling. I love to start a grill session with a great petillant naturel aka pet nat—a sparkling wine that typically has low key bubbles, is unfiltered and raw. They make perfect thirst quenchers and also set the vibe. Right now a favorite is 2017 Armonia, Frizzi Pop!, Veneto, Pinot Noir/Durella ($26).
If not a pet nat, it’s great to start with rosé. Tis the season, but! It’s so important to free your mind about rosé. I love darker hued, salty rosés that really express themselves such as 2017 Fabien Jouves, A Table!!!, Cahors, Malbec ($20) and 2017 Domaine St. Lucie, MiP, Provence, Cinsault/Syrah/Grenache ($21).
For the main event I usually gravitate towards chilled reds made from gamay, blaufrankisch, Pinot noir, Pineau d’aunis, or cab franc, such as 2017 Gaspard, Touraine, Cabernet Franc ($21).
And if I don’t go red, orange wine—white wine with skin contact—is a dope way to pair smokey grill flavors with texture and acid. A great option for orange is 2018 Meinklang, Mulatschak, Burgenland, Pinot Gris/Welschriesling ($23).
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Erik Segelbaum, advanced sommelier, wine consultant, and wine educator at Somlyay LLC:
Without a doubt, the Lacrima grape from the Marche region of Italy is a go-to for me. These wines have great acidity and structure making them perfect in the heat and they even take well to a chill. They also tends to pair well with various sweet, sour, and spicy sauces, which means barbecue is fair game. Bonus: They’re also rarely expensive and the quality tends to be exemplary. A few of my favorites right now include Marotti Campi Lacrima di Morro d’Alba ‘Rubico’ (from $15). This bottle recently won the Gambero Rosso ‘Tre Bicchieri’ (3 glasses) award, which is the highest honor an Italian wine can receive. Given that most other winners cost as much per bottle as a whole case of Marotti Campi, you can be assured it’s a great value.
Another extraordinary Lacrima from the Marche is made by Luchetti. Look for their still or sparkling (spumante) versions. I love the still Luchetti Lacrima di Morro d’Alba Marche (from $10) with red meats and strong sauces. The sparkling (from $14.99) goes perfectly with chicken, fish, seafood and anything with a fruit component. It also doesn’t hurt that their dramatic pop art-inspired packaging is easy to recognize and bound to make a splash at any poolside party.
Another great option for barbecue and summer sun, still from Italy, is the Pederzana Lambrusco ‘Gibe’ ($14.99). This is an amazing sparkling red wine from Emilia-Romagna. It’s floral and fruity which gives the impression of sweetness, though it’s actually quite dry, unlike many Lambruscos. There’s a delicious meaty, savory note to this wine that syncs up with the typical flavors of the grill; I especially like it with stronger, smokier, sweeter sauces. It doesn’t quite get along as well with Carolina BBQ (i.e. vinegar-based sauces), but still works. Poultry works well and fish and seafood pair swimmingly!
Bianca Bosker, author of NYT best-seller Cork Dork and woman behind #pairdevil Instagram wine pairing series:
When it comes to grilling-appropriate wines, I am head over heels for any whites from Sicily. I think that they are a incredible bang for the buck and they’re delicious. If you think about Sicily, it’s a pretty warm climate with a seafood-driven cuisine. The wines and their essence are just so perfectly suited for these warm grilling months. In particular, I love the Sicilian grape Grillo, as well as Cataratto and Zibbo. A few bottles I’m really into right now are Tenute Lombardo Bianco d’Altura ($18) and Tasca d’Almerita Leone d’Almerita 2017 ($19.99). But whether you’re buying a single grape wine or a blend from Sicily, I don’t think you could go wrong. They’re generous wines when it comes to pairing, with great acidity, and they’re crowd-pleasers.
I also think there’s a case to be made for sparkling wine as an everyday wine. There are really delicious, budget-conscious sparkling options that can turn any occasion into a celebration. One in particular I love right now is a semi-sparkling orange wine from Greece called “Paleokerisio” Dom. Glinavos 2017 ($12.99). Again, this is such a crowd-pleaser. I’ve served it in so many different contexts with different kinds of crowds and it just always seems to make people really happy. It’s got orange peel and apricot notes, a little bit of spiciness, and just a breath of something earthy. It would play really nicely with a grilled meal.
Related Reading: The Ultimate Guide to BBQ & Grilling
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