A few years ago, in honor of BBQ season, I wrote an article entitled “Why Do Grilled Foods and Wine Pair Well Together?” This year, my focus will be on why wine makes grilled food taste so good. A big thank you to Michelle Martin of Busch’s Fresh Food Market for her help with this article.
Wine with Grilled Steak
In her article, Michelle starts out by saying, “Drinking a red wine with high tannin on its own can dry out your mouth, but drinking it with a fatty steak acts as an astringent, removing the fattiness from your palate.”
She talks about using different reds for different types of steaks: robust reds like Shiraz and Bordeaux for fattier cuts like ribeye; Pinot Noir for leaner cuts like sirloin; fruit-forward wines for charred steaks.
For chicken, she recommends an oaked chardonnay, because she says it cuts down on the bitterness of the charred meat. But she says if you’re using a spicy marinade, you should go with a Riesling or a Gewürztraminer. If you’re going with an herbed marinade, you might want to consider a Sauvignon Blanc.
While beer is often the chosen beverage for burgers, wine can be just as good. A medium-bodied red such as Merlot is a great choice for any burger. If you have a
cheeseburger with cheddar, you might want to consider a Rioja from Spain (Tempranillo) or Chianti from Italy. Both of these wines have higher tannins that cut through the stickiness of the cheese. If your cheeseburger features a stronger cheese, your best bet could be a Zinfandel because of its bold fruit-forward notes.
Wine with Pork
Michelle says that pork generally pairs best with white wines such as Sauvignon Blanc or light reds such as Pinot Noir. But she really emphasizes being flexible. Her recommendations are just that – recommendations.
For ribs, the recommendation is Barolo or Bordeaux. But she says it’s important to think about your sauce and the style of the grilling before deciding which wines to serve. And it’s always a good practice is to serve several wines, so that you can accommodate people’s different tastes.
Michelle tells us to pair whites with grilled seafood. Why? Because they have fewer tannins than red wines, and the tannins can interact with fish oils and leave a bad aftertaste.
Fattier fish such as trout or tuna pair well with a buttery Chardonnay. Grilled salmon pairs best with lighter-bodied wines such as Pinot Noir or Beaujolais. Grilled white fish is best served with crisp white wines such as Chenin Blanc or Pinot Grigio.
A Final Two Words of Wisdom from All Recipes
We’ll end this article with two words of wisdom from All Recipes.
Their first word of wisdom: “Red wine is rich in tannins that are reactive to proteins (the dry feeling in our mouth results from the binding of lubricating salivary proteins with tannins), so red meat makes the wine less tannic, and the tannins make the meat less rich.”
Their second word of wisdom: “Alcohol helps release flavor molecules in foods and assists in dissolving fats, allowing ingredients to reveal their own unique flavors in ways that other liquids (like water or broth) or fats (like butter and olive oil) cannot.”
That last word of wisdom sounds like guidance not just for grilling, but for all food. I’m taking from this that wine should be served with every meal.
I’d love to hear about your grilling experiences. If you have any good stories, please share them here. Thanks.
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