Great Wines for Grilling

By Jessica Granatiero, Founder
A version of this article also published in the Providence Business News.

The increase in vaccinations and reopening of the country came at the best time – the summer grilling season! So, fire up the grill, it is barbecue time. With the advent of warmer weather, this is the time that we move our culinary prowess out of the kitchen and onto the deck, where we have dusted off and polished the grill. Naturally, we want to ensure we have good libations to pair with the various vegetables, seafood and meats that we often cook on the grill during the summer season.

While I often say, “Drink what you like the most,” it does make a difference when you choose wines that pair nicely with the dish that is being grilled. And, this might not always be your usual favorite go-to wine. The marriage – grilled food and partnered wine – can enhance each other’s components greatly.

Grilling is one of the most intense styles of cooking, searing and charring the outside while maintaining a beautiful juiciness within, whether it is fish or meat! There are many wine options that can match with this style of cooking intensity. Here are some general pairing options:

Shellfish – Vinho Verde, gruner veltliner, albarino and picpoul de pinet.

Salmon & other white fish, like Mahi Mahi or Sea Bass – pinot gris, chardonnay, rosé, Champagne

Pork & vegetarian dishes – pinot noir, chenin blanc, dry rosé, gruner veltliner

Burgers & Sausages – syrah, malbec, zinfandel, tempranillo, pinot noir

BBQ chicken – chardonnay, riesling

Below are my top wine categories and picks, keeping in mind value, quality and availability. Each selection is less than $20.

Vinho Verde – Translated as green wine, this stainless-steel fermented Portuguese white wine screams summer and shellfish – shrimp, clams, oysters, mussels. Light and fresh with great acidity, this wine is often what you will find locals drinking in Portugal. It is also one of the best white wine values – most are less than $15 in a wine shop. It gives notes of pear, green apple and citrus fruit. My pick: Herdade do Esporao Bico Amarelo Vinho Verde

Gruner Veltliner – This is the name of the main white grape from Austria. While there are many producers of gruner veltliner, in general most of them are made to show great freshness and vibrancy. This means that most Gruner Veltliners are aged in stainless steel or cement tanks, not oak barrels. Because of this the resulting wines are light bodied, zippy and great partners for shellfish, grilled white fish, like Mahi Mahi or Sea Bass, or veggie burgers: My pick: Paul D Gruner Veltliner.

Rosé – Rosé wines are great partners for many grilled cuisines including seafood, chicken, beef and vegetables. They vary widely in intensity, body and sweetness and therefore can pair with any dish. The most popular styles are those that have the acid and body of a white wine, and the fruity nature of a red wine. Rosé wines also hail from almost every country, giving us a plethora of options! My pick: Ercole Rosato, Italy (Arriving back on Thursday, July 29.)

Syrah – Syrah is a red wine grape that comes in many styles – from spicy to full bodied and fruit forward to medium bodied and herbaceous. Where the grape grows is one of the deciding factors in how it will taste in the glass. Regardless of its style, Syrah, or Syrah blends, marry well with many foods from the grill. Syrah/Shiraz from Australia is typically full bodied and more on the sweet side of the spectrum. Those from France are often drier and lighter in body. While those from Washington State, an area of the U.S. in which Syrah grows widely, land in the middle. They show a medium to full body that has a nice balance of dark berry fruit backed by hints of spice notes. My pick: Barnard Griffin Rob’s Red Blend