As summer and Father’s Day approach, attention tends to turn toward grilling. Over the last handful of years, the number of grill-focused tools, blogs, recipe books and TV shows seem to have multiplied by a factor of 10. At this point, you can grill pretty much anything—meat, vegetables, pizza, fruit, and even desserts. But what constitutes a good “grilling wine?” “Grilling wines” need three things: acidity, flavor, and body.
- Acid –Grilled foods tend to be rich and fatty, in order to withstand that style of cooking. High-acidity wines can cut through the richness and act as a palate cleanser. Pair a high-acidity wine with heavily marinated meats, or the wine will seem flabby. Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Chardonnay, and Cabernet Sauvignon all fall into this category.
- Flavor—Of course all wine has flavor, but grilling wines often need more robust flavor to stand up to the rubs, marinades, and sauces that commonly accompany grilled foods. Pair your wine’s flavor intensity with that of the food. Red Zinfandels and Malbecs have pronounced black fruit and spice flavors that can stand up to flavorful grilled dishes. Another approach is to pair a wine that has some sweetness with a spicy grilled dish. Spiciness in food tends to make wines seem less sweet and less fruity, so you need to make sure the wine has enough flavor beyond just the sugary taste, or you won’t be left with much flavor at all.
- Body—A wine’s body should generally be on par with that of the food, otherwise one will over-power the other. A wine’s body—sometimes referred to as “mouth feel”—is based on the combination of its alcohol content, tannins and residual sugar. Cabernets have higher tannins and medium-to-high alcohol, making them a more full-bodied wine. Zinfandels and Malbecs generally have medium tannins but higher alcohol, giving them a fuller body as well.
- Morgadìo Rias Baixas Albariño—The high acid and fruit flavors will pair well with grilled fish and seafood, or grilled white meat with tomato-based marinades or sauces
- Château Petit Moulin Bordeaux Blanc—The acidity from the Sauvignon Blanc and the body from the Semillon will stand up to rich rotisserie chicken and smoked pork shoulders. This is also a great option for grilled vegetables or veggie burgers.
- Field Recordings Fiction Red Blend—Zinfandel-based blend with Touriga Nacional and Syrah make this a full-flavor, full-bodied wine, great for all sorts of grilled dishes
- Carol Shelton "Monga" Zinfandel –These concentrated fruit and spice flavors can pair with all sorts of spice rubs and seasonings
- Padrillos Malbec –The dark fruit and spice of the Padrillos is a perfect accompaniment to anything from BBQ to flame-kissed steaks
- Smith-Madrone Estate Cabernet Sauvignon—Pair this smooth and dark Napa Cab with a juicy steak; who wouldn’t love this?