Sunday, May 18, 2008

Wines for BBQ & Other Zesty Foods

Planning a Memorial Day cookout, and not sure what kinds of adult beverages other than beer to serve? Here are some recommendations for types of wines that work well with barbecue & grilled foods, hot & spicy dishes, and other zesty fare. No, I won't recommend specific brands of wine because there's such a huge range of prices and availability can vary so much across the country. Rather, the varieties and styles of wines will be provided so you can shop according to your budget and personal preferences.

*Wines for Barbecue: If you're serving traditional American BBQ, be it ribs (beef or pork) or pulled pork, the obvious choice is an American Zinfandel (the full-bodied red wine, not the sweet pink stuff called white zinfandel). Another good choice is Shiraz from Australia for its big fruit flavors that complement ribs and other smoky meats.

*Wines for Grilled Salmon: Pinot Noir - yes, a red with fish! Salmon is a full-flavored fish, and grilling adds even more robustness, which means it stands up well to a medium-bodied Pinot Noir. But you can also go with a citrusy Gewurztraminer so long as it's not too sweet, or a Chardonnay.

*Wines for Burgers: Again, I like to stick with a classic American wine like Zinfandel for classic American fare like hamburgers, but a fun and fruity Beaujolais will work, or even a Spanish Rioja, too.

*Wines for Grilled Chicken: A mellow Merlot or Chianti will pair nicely, and those wines are usually very "user friendly" (i.e., folks who only occasionally drink red wine will probably enjoy them). Another good choice is a big, buttery-oaky California Chardonnay, if you want to splurge.

*Wines for Hot & Spicy Foods: Generally, I think beer is more refreshing with really fiery dishes, but if you have non-beer drinkers who will be eating hot and spicy foods, then offer sparkling wines from Italy or Spain (I personally love Cava) that are a bit less dry than fine Champagne. Reislings also have a nice sweetness to offset the fire, and here in North Carolina there are some local Muscadine whites that aren't half-bad when served well-chilled with fiery foods.

*Wines for Grilled Vegetables: For whites, I like Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio with grilled portobellos, zucchini, onions & peppers (or other grilled vegetables). For reds, you can't go wrong with Pinot Noir or a Chianti.

*Wines for Grilled Shrimp: My favorite wines with grilled shrimp are Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Noir, but a lighter Australian Chardonnay will also work well.

If you're serving several of the foods listed above for your Memorial Day Barbecue or cookout and want to stick with just 1 white wine and just 1 red wine, then you can satisfy a crowd by offering a Zinfandel or Merlot as your red, and an Australian or California Chardonnay for your white.

And of course, don't forget to offer some hot and mild salsas and relishes and a couple of different mustards as condiments, plus some flavorful snacks for your guests to enjoy while the food is cooking.

Zestfully yours,

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