Beer might get the most cookout credit, but when it comes to the perfect beverage for your backyard barbecue, nothing beats wine.
That’s right! Wine works wonders with good, old-fashioned barbecue. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy. We’re talking a basic rack of ribs, some classic American cheeseburgers, and a variety of bratwurst flavors. That’s because the smoky, pepper-y flavors of barbecue work great with everything from crisp white wines and rosés, to palate-cleansing sparkling wines and ultra-smooth reds, if the weather isn’t too warm.
Added bonus: wine doesn’t isn’t as filling as beer. So serve up a big plate of barbecue and enjoy a glass of vino to accompany those smoked meats! You’ll wonder why anyone would drink anything else with this special summer meal.
PAIR WITH THE SAUCE
Anyone that’s familiar with American-style barbecue knows that there are some significant regional differences (and strong preferences) for sauces. The generic barbecue flavor that coats everything from potato chips to a dipping sauce for chicken tenders at chain fast food restaurants isn’t nearly as flavorful (or as unique) as some of the barbecue sauces you’ll find across the USA.
Carolina BBQ Sauces
In this case we’re talking about South Carolina sauces, which rely on vinegar and savory flavors as the base of their flavor profile, making them tangy, and in some cases, a little bit sour compared to other regional barbecue sauces. Some recipes include quite a bit of mustard, which gives them an underlying heat. Carolina BBQ sauce recipes work well with fruit-forward red wines like Sangiovese and meatier, heavier wines like Syrah.
Kansas City BBQ Sauces
Contrary to Carolina sauces, Kansas City barbecue has a signature brown-sugar sweetness. Its thick consistency is made from a special mixture of tomato paste, sugar, vinegar, and spices. You can find mild or spicy Kansas City BBQ sauces, but ultimately they’ll taste sweet and will pair well with smooth red wines like Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon. Fruity rosés also work alongside sauces from the KC area.
Memphis BBQ Sauces
If there was a perfect mashup of Carolina and Kansas City barbecue sauces, Memphis might be it. It’s both tangy and sweet, and thinner in consistency similar to the Carolina specialty. Still, these Memphis sauces also include tomato paste and plenty of brown sugar. An off-dry Riesling works great here since the sauce is lighter in nature, and the sweetness of the wine and meat will elevate both the drink and the dish to a whole new level.
Texas BBQ Sauces
Is smoke your favorite flavor? Then saddle up your barbecue spread with Texas-style sauces. Unlike other regions, Texas uses their sauce as a marinade which makes them bold and meaty from the meat drippings. There’s also quite a bit of heat from hot sauce and Worchestire sauce that make the base of these barbecue sauces. It’s also good to know that there’s really one main meat in Texas: brisket. A Malbec or Zinfandel is your best bet, however a Pinot Noir is a welcome light addition to an otherwise heavy meal.
PAIR WITH THE MEATS
In general, red wine works best for both pork and beef barbecued meats. That being said, we know that red wine isn’t necessarily the first choice on a hot summer day … and luckily, white wine and rosé really do work well with almost anything.
White Wine with Bubbles adds a crisp acidity that can make the meal feel a little bit lighter. And rosé is frequently thought of as the wine that pairs well with anything. That’s because this wine is crisp enough to not weigh down a meal, but is more substantial than white wines. The fruity sweetness of rosé also complements most pork dishes.
Let’s not disregard the fact that most of the cookout is spent by the hot grill. Anything refreshing in this situation is a welcome indulgence. Whether it’s a white wine or rosé wine (bubbly or not) enjoy whichever vino is speaking to you as the grill master … or grill helper. All that aside, here are the best wines to pair with the meat, poultry, and fish at a barbecue.
Beef Wine Pairings
For a perfectly seared steak or a rich brisket, break out the tannic reds to complement the pepper-y fat of barbecued beef dishes. Italian reds such as Sangiovese and Spanish-style wines like Rioja are a perfect pairing. Let the wines breath for 1-2 hours beforehand and place in the fridge for 30 minutes if previously kept at room temperature. The optimum serving temperature for red wine is 55 degrees, which will also be more appetizing on a warm summer day.
Pork Wine Pairings
In general, pork tastes sweeter than beef dishes, and a light to medium-bodied red works best to complement the dish without overpowering the meat. Take pulled pork for example, a Pinot Noir or Barbera will balance out the sweetness and add a richness to the meal. Due to pork’s lighter nature, white and rosé wines also work well with these barbecued entreés. If the wine is fruity and sweet, you really can’t go wrong. Simply serve all white and rosé wines cold, and top dessert wines with ice for an extra-refreshing glass of vino.
Poultry Wine Pairings
It’s no secret that barbecued chicken and smoked turkey legs work well with white and rosé wines. The only question is, how light should you go? A Riesling is an easy-drinking cookout wine, but may not be the best flavor profile for an ultra-savory dry rub. Instead, choose a dry wine such as a Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc to keep the main dish in the spotlight. However, if the poultry is spicy, a sweet Moscato or off-dry Riesling will balance out the heat. Our personal favorite? White Wine with Bubbles or Rosé with Bubbles. These wines are fruity, light, and refreshing, and a perfect accompaniment to any poultry main dish at a BBQ.
Shrimp and Fish Wine Pairings
Surf and turf anyone? Add a zesty lemon shrimp or garlic salmon to the spread and serve with a classic white wine. While a Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Grigio work great, these two entreés will benefit from a little bit of buttery oak in the wine. Graham + Fisk White Wine is perfectly balanced to have more body than ultra-light wines, while not overwhelming the shrimp and fish dishes.
PAIR WITH THE SIDES
For fried and buttery sides such as tater tots, classic ridge potato chips, or buttered corn on the cob, White Wine with Bubbles works the best to balance out the fat. Lighter fruit and vegetable dishes pair well with a light and dry rosé. Cheese boards, fudgy brownies, and stuffed mushrooms are best with a medium-bodied red wine. And that Midwest marshmallow fruit salad? That’s a personal judgment call.
HOW TO SERVE THE WINE
For a BBQ, convenience is key. That’s why we prefer cans at our backyard cookouts. They fit into the cooler with the beers, are easy to open, come in individual servings so everyone can grab exactly what they want, and taste delicious. You don’t have to worry about glasses or saving four different half-drunk bottles of wine. Set out a set of short plastic wine cups just in case people don’t want to commit to a full can, and give guests the go-ahead to grab ice from the cooler for an extra-chilled wine drinking experience on a hot summer day.
Looking for the perfect wine and barbecue combo? You’re in luck! Graham + Fisk has partnered with the award-winning Pig of the Month Club! Now you can get a 12-pack of the famous Graham + Fisk Wine-In-A-Can and specialty meats from Pig of the Month including two smash burgers, one rack of ribs, one pound of pulled pork, one bottle of Memphis Tangy BBQ Sauce, and one pack of buns.
That’s a whole lot of wine AND food for just $134.99! This special partnership is for a limited-time only — so order yours today. The meats and wine ship separately, but go perfectly together.
So what are you waiting for? Get together with friends and cheers with wine at your next barbecue cookout!
Erin Hooker is a writer with experience creating wine, food, and interior design content. She began contributing to Graham + Fisk’s blog in 2021.