The Case For Making Wine Your Go-To Barbecue Pairing

A well-curated food and beverage pairing has the power to prime the tastebuds for maximal gustatory pleasure that lasts throughout the entire meal. While food and beverage pairings will often turn up in high-end dining, the logic holds equally as true for barbecue.

Beer, with its stinging effervescence and the near endless combinations of underlying flavor notes you'll find in its many varieties, makes a glorious complement for just about any meat, fish, poultry, or vegetable dish that you might make over an open flame. That's one reason beer is such a popular accompaniment for backyard barbecue. Another is the ineffably relaxed vibe that seems naturally to accompany the proceedings when beer is the pairing choice. 

But who says barbecue fare can't be part of a fine dining experience? In fact, it can, and maybe it should be, at least some of the time. And how better to elevate your 'cue to new heights than with a thoughtful drink pairing? And when it comes right down to it, is there a more thoughtful drink pairing for food than wine? 

Indeed, we checked with a barbecue expert, who confirmed our instincts as spot on — not unlike that tiny but visible glob of sauce that will inevitably end up on the collar of your white shirt. But isn't that what dry-cleaning's for? So, let's move right on to our expert's picks for the perfect barbecue-wine pairings.

Our pitmaster expert is well-red on wine pairings

Tasting Table's intrepid barbecue expert, Shawn Hill, is the Pitmaster behind The Grilling Dad. When we asked Hill if he'd ever consider pairing wine with barbecue, he said he "absolutely" would. Indeed, Hill has made a great case — no pun intended — for saving that Belgian 12-pack for game night and, instead, uncorking a fine wine or two to pair with your next al fresco barbecue. "I mean, why not make your backyard cookout feel like a fancy wine and cheese party?" Hill quipped.

And who are we to argue, especially since we always love a good bottle of vino (even if we're among the 40% of wine lovers who occasionally commit this faux pas)? So the only question that remains is which wines to pair with which barbecue dishes. 

"For rich, smoky flavors like BBQ, you want a wine that can hold its own," Hill explained. In other words, Hill recommends that for meats like beef, lamb, and pork, it's best to go with a "bold, full-bodied red wine like a Cabernet Sauvignon or Syrah." When it comes to lighter fare, including chicken, fish, and shellfish, Hill's recommendation is to "opt for a crisp, refreshing white wine like a Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio."

"Just don't spill it on your white T-shirt," he teases. Because we all know we will.