Drink & Dine: Wine and Food Pairings for Your Summer Barbecue
While beer and cider boast their own legit food pairings, nothing complements grilled meats, faux-meats and grilled vegetables better than wine. Photo: SolStock/Getty Images
With barbecue season in full swing and temperatures spiking, it’s tempting to fill coolers with ice-cold beer and cider, leaving wine and its requisite glasses and barware indoors for more formal occasions. But while beer and cider boast their own legit food pairings, nothing — truly nothing — complements grilled meats, faux-meats and grilled vegetables better than wine.
Whether using charcoal or gas, reds are barbecue requisites, even if whites and rosés are refreshing starter sippers. Not all reds require a big production of decanting and breathing before serving. These suggestions, featuring something new, something Canadian and something classic, can be poured and glugged straight away, and perhaps with the exception of our Classic pick — which benefits from being chilled and served in something with a stem — these selections are fine at room temperature in patio-friendly stemless glasses.
Pinot Noir is hardly new, but new vintages are hitting shelves all the time from regions around the world. New Zealand is a heavyweight contender for this delicate, beautifully light-bodied ruby-red wine, as is Oregon, California, Canada and France. As with its full-bodied counterpart Cabernet Sauvignon, there is almost always a correlation between quality and cost with Pinot Noir. That said, a $20 or $25 bottle can be pretty darn good if carefully sourced from one of the can’t-miss regions listed above. What’s more, like Gamay Noir, Pinot Noir pairs with almost anything, including fish, chicken and tofu, which traditionally call out for whites. Look for wines that have had oak aging to enhance the smokiness of the grilled foods.
Pair With: As mentioned, there really is no wrong answer, food-wise, with Pinot Noir. But if you want to dazzle your assembled crew, try matching with lamb burgers, the meat’s delicate pastoral flavour is nicely complemented by the wine’s soft cherry and clove notes. Similarly, your veg-head friends will marvel at the sublime beauty of Pinot Noir with grilled portobello mushrooms brushed with a mix of balsamic vinegar and EVOO and served with sprigs of thyme.
As we’ve noted previously, Baco Noir is grown abundantly in Ontario, sparingly elsewhere in Canada and the U.S., but it is a barbeque game changer for a bunch of reasons. Its subtle smokiness and comparative sweetness counter the bitterness of any charred bits. Plus, Baco Noir doesn’t need to breathe before drinking. It also looks fabulous in the glass; first-time samplers will expect to have their tongues detonated with tannins given the inky depth of its colour. What a pleasant surprise, then, when softly tannic, fruity Baco glides down like juice, albeit one that will stain the corners of your mouth. You’ve been warned.
Pair With: Anything grilled pairs well with Baco Noir, from peppers and zucchini to leeks, Romaine for grilled Caesar salads to hot dogs. But since burgers are everyone’s favourite, let’s go there and suggest the wine opposite meat or veg patties blanketed in melted Provolone or Swiss then topped with fresh-sliced heirloom tomato and crisp Iceberg lettuce. Pro tip: raise your burger game with cut-above buns from a proper bakery. COBS Bread have hundreds of locations nationwide, and their Herb & Garlic Gourmet Hamburger Bun is stupidly delicious, not too bread-y but big enough to keep condiments firmly in place as you chow down.
So much about Lambrusco is unique. Easily the most marquee of frizzante or slightly sparkling red wines best served chilled, Italian Lambrusco can also be moderately sweet but is unbelievably food-friendly and, though soft and mildly floral on the palate, can stand up to bold flavours. It’s also a showstopper in the glass.
Pair With: In deference to Lambrusco’s rich heritage, why not open your event with the wine chilled and served alongside Italian-approved superstars like melon prosciutto skewers or sliced fig and shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano on focaccia rounds? The guests may never leave.
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