Move Over, Beer: Best Wines for Your BBQ

I'm not saying that beer isn't a great choice for your BBQ. It is cold, refreshing, and lightly effervescent, making it a very popular choice for grilling season. But does it really deserve the entire spotlight? Move over, beer. It's time to make room for wine: your new favorite for burgers, brats, baked beans, and beyond!

What Makes a Good BBQ Wine?

Here are some things to look fo when picking a wine for your next cookout:
  • Chillable. Yes, reds, too! Look for reds loaded with fruity flavors. Low to medium tannin is perfect but some high tannin wines work with a light chill! For whites, I like zesty, but meat eaters might want to try a fuller wine like Chardonnay.
  • Food friendly. Even if you're eating a steak, your side might be a fresh salad. A lot of wines taste awful with vinaigrette. Keep your sides in mind!
  • Flavorful. Grilled foods and their usual sides tend to be high in flavor, salt, and smoke. I recommend picking a wine with enough flavor to stand up to these bold foods. Save the light-bodied Pinot Grigio for another day.
TIP: A wine cooler sleeve is a summer essential.

My Favorite Grilling Wines

Keeping those guidelines in mind, here are my top picks.

Grüner Veltliner
Typically from Austria, Grüner is fresh and zesty but it has a spicy vein that will stand up to grilled flavors. It is also very high acid! This is not a shy white wine.
Best for: Grilled white fish, vegetables, pasta salad, green salad.

Pinot Gris
Yes, this is the same grape as Pinot Grigio, but wines labeled Pinot Gris are a bit different from your favorite Italian versions. Pinot Gris wines will have more body and bigger flavors of lemon, apple, pear, and peach.
Best for: Grilled salmon, chicken, vegetables, corn on the cob, potatoes.

Dry Rosé
Rosé is one of the safest pairing styles because it goes well with a broad range of food and it tends to please both red and white wine drinkers. I prefer Pinot Noir or Cabernet Franc examples but feel free to experiment. I'm going with Aglianico version this Memorial Day!
Best for: Grilled seafood, chicken, hot dogs, turkey burgers, veggie kabobs.

Did you honestly think I was going to do a post about food and wine pairing and not include my beloved Gamay? You can find juicy, thrist-quenching examples from Beaujolais, Oregon, and the Loire Valley. Remember to give it a quick chill!
Best for: Cheeseburgers, BBQ chicken, sausage, hot dogs, mushrooms, potato salad.

Here's something a little unexpected! This South African grape had a bad reputation for a while but there are great bottles popping up lately. It is a very dark wine with smokey licorice flavors but a light chill with bring out its fruity blackberry and plum side.
Best for: Steak, hamburgers, baked beans, ribs, brisket, mushrooms, peppers.

Related: How to Pick Wine for a Group