Perfect wine pairings for grilling

June 26, 2013 

The Fourth of July is a great day to spend outdoors with family and friends, which is why it is considered one of the biggest grilling days of the year. So how do you choose wines to pair with all of the different flavors that come off the grill? You have to be very versatile with your selections and, although you could pair either a white or a red to accompany the meal, I would choose all whites in order to help cool things off on a hot day.

A mixed grill is the perfect choice with selections of grilled chicken, barbecued ribs and burgers, along with grilled corn, onions and peppers and portobello mushrooms. The problem with the mixed grill is that there really isn't a way to choose one wine to match against all of the flavors of the different meats and vegetables.

Grilled chicken pairs very well with many different wines, but one of the better choices is a crisp Sauvignon Blanc. This wine has a couple of things that make it a favorable pairing for the heat of a summer day like the Fourth, namely that it is served chilled and additionally it pairs well with such other grilled sides like corn, portobello mushrooms and bell peppers.

The 2012 Woodbridge by Robert Mondavi Sauvignon Blanc retails for $8 and should be easy to find. This wine complements grilled chicken with grapefruit and other citrus flavors that lead to a crisp finish. If you desire a red wine, then try a Malbec such as the 2010 Terrazas Reserva Malbec from Argentina which has black cherry flavors and a hint of cinnamon.

Barbecued ribs requires a wine that has a lot of flavors and one of my favorite pairings is a

big Syrah, with its' deep garnet color and peppery flavors. Alternatively, the tangy flavors contained in barbecue sauce pairs well with a dry Riesling -- a wine that is often overlooked by many, but is becoming more popular.

The 2011 Chateau Ste. Michelle Dry Riesling fit the bill quite well, as it is very food friendly. The wine started with pear flavors, but what I really enjoyed about this dry Riesling was the finish. It retails for $9 a bottle. The blackberry flavors from the 2010 Terrazas Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon would also be a great choice.

The standard fixture of the American grill -- the hamburger -- is more difficult to pair with red wine because of all the options of cheese and condiments. On the white side of the equation, I think a Pinot Grigio goes well with just about any combination of items that one chooses to compliment a burger.

With respect to a red wine and considering only cheeses, the choices are many and what you choose has a major impact on the wine selection with the following suggestions: blue cheese and Zinfandel, Swiss and Pinot Noir, Cheddar and Merlot.

On the other hand, any of these cheeseburgers pair well with an ice cold beer.

Jim Rawe, a family attorney in Bradenton, is an avid collector of fine wines. His column appears weekly. He can be reached at

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