14 Best Wines To Pair With Your Summertime Barbecue

When the sun is shining brightly and the weather gods are in good spirits, a barbecue is the best way to gather your favorite people together for a meal. While burgers and hot dogs are classic go-tos, the world of grilling extends far beyond these popular options. Ribs, steaks, chicken wings, and sausages are just some of the meat-based dishes you could spring for, and that doesn't even begin to take into account the infinite array of vegetarian foods like corn on the cob, portobello mushrooms, and halloumi cheese. Then, of course, there is all important drink pairing to consider.  

Beer or a jungle juice concoction have long been the preferred beverages at a summer barbecue. We get it; they're refreshing and wash everything down so well. But there's absolutely a case for making wine your go-to barbecuing pairing. We've highlighted our favorite reds, whites, and rosés to pair with your grilled entrees and sides for your next summertime feast.  

1. Argentinian malbec with burgers

There's a reason why Argentina, a country that takes great pride in its barbecue (aka asado) culture, produces a wine perfectly fit for the occasion. Malbec is a plush and plummy variety with a rich velvety mouthfeel that takes over the palate in each fruity gulp. While the grape is originally from France, in South America it takes on a lush quality that makes it an excellent option to pair with easy dining. Summer barbecues are our top pick in the fuss-free category, and it doesn't get much simpler than burgers.

A bit of smokiness from the grill is balanced by the dark fruit notes in Malbec, while the cocoa notes round it out. Make it a cheeseburger and the berry notes will elevate your meal far beyond its basic components. Since malbec has medium levels of tannins (the dry feeling on your tongue), skip the fatty ground meat and opt for leaner cuts for a better match. Pick up a bottle of Santa Julia's El burro malbec, a natural unfiltered wine free of sulfites. The classic dark berry and cherry aromas will complement every juicy bite.

2. Australian chardonnay with grilled chicken

Red meat gets a lot of attention on the grill, but chicken is a worthy alternative. Marinate your poultry before slapping it on the grill for particularly tender and flavor meat. There are plenty of directions to take your chicken breast, thighs, legs, or wings, whether you're opting for a light lemon and herb seasoning or something with more punch, like a spice rub. Whatever you choose, make sure to have a bottle of chardonnay chilling in the fridge.

As one of the most popular wine grapes around, chances are you've experimented with several styles. If you have yet to taste a version from Australia, let this be a sign to snag a bottle of Yalumba's Y Series chardonnay. The winery has been at the forefront of sustainable viticulture for over 170 years, so rest assured that it has had plenty of time to perfect a refreshing style of chardonnay that highlights the grape's features in total balance.

The low-intervention wine lets the fruit speak for itself, with vibrant notes of tropical fruit and hints of floral elements. This chardonnay is bright and crisp, and an excellent palate cleanser between bites of chicken. If you're skipping the meat, it is equally delicious with grilled halloumi cheese.

3. Provence rosé with fresh salads

Even though the grill is the star feature of any worthy summer barbecue, salads and side dishes are just as important. Leafy greens, creamy potato salads, and tangy coleslaw are some favorites that make a natural accompaniment to charred meats. Nothing says summer like a table piled high with fresh salads and a chilled bottle of rosé wine.

Provence, France, is undoubtedly the most influential rosé wine region in the world, and there's a style for every palate. For a more complex yet ever-refreshing option, the Bandol area is a favorite. The rosés here are made with a blend of grapes, primarily mourvèdre, grenache, and cinsault, resulting in layered flavors of fruit, spice, and earth.

While you can splurge on age-worthy rosés from Bandol, that's not our move for a casual barbecue. For a delicious (and reasonablly priced) wine to pair with all those salad sides, get your hands on a bottle of Bieler Wines Bandol rosé. Notes of herbs de Provence, white cherry, tangerine, and licorice come together with a stony finish.

4. Cava while the grill heats up

Sure, beer or soda have commonly been the go-to options for a cold bubbly drink to serve at a barbecue, but this summer you'll want to take your beverage game up a notch with a sparkling wine. Unless you're swimming in the stuff, skip the Champagne for this casual outdoor occasion and opt for Spanish Cava to pass around as your guests arrive and the coals heat up.

Cava is commonly made following the same method as its expensive French relative, yet with local grapes and a wider range of prices. It's hard not to feel relaxed and ready to sit back and enjoy a hearty meal of grilled meats and sides when you have a chilled glass of bubbles in hand. Plus, if you get a few extra bottles you'll find that the crisp mousse is a fine pairing for your spread.

Totus Tuus Cava reserva, named for the Latin expression which means "all yours," will have you reaching for your glass as you say, "all mine." Along with the classic trio of Spanish grapes (parellada, macabeo, and xarello), this Cava features some pinot noir and chardonnay too, which tie it together with a smooth creaminess. Stone fruit and citrus notes are present on the palate, with a vibrant edge that adds structure.

5. Oregon pinot noir for salmon lovers

Meat is the center of many summer barbecues, but a thick cut of salmon fares just as well on the grill. A light sprinkling of salt and pepper is all it takes to enhance the natural flavors of this fatty fish. While salmon pairs nicely with white and rosé wines, a grilled preparation can handle something a little bolder. Skip highly tannic red wines and opt for a bottle of pinot noir instead. The popular grape is grown around the world, but for something close to home we recommend an Oregon pinot noir.

Its earthy aromas and relative acidity make it a food-friendly wine. Apart from the influence of the various sub-regions, winemaking plays a role too. If you want to match the intensity of the char with some toasted notes, look for a bottle aged in new oak. Meanwhile, if you're serving grilled salmon with light salads, something more fruit-forward does the trick. Erath Winery's pinot noir features notes of dark fruits like boysenberry and dark cherry, alongside subtle hints of herbs. The result is refined yet easily drinkable, and a wonderful complement to the rich flavors of grilled salmon.

6. Primitivo with grilled vegetables

Considering the main vegetable candidates for a barbecue are mushrooms, peppers, eggplants, and zucchini, bold and earthy flavors are at the forefront. Brush them with your favorite marinade, slap them on the grill, and the result is sure to rival whatever else is on the menu. 

You'll want to pair that with a wine that balances fruity and earthy notes, such as Masseria Surani Primitivo di Manduria. If that sounds like a mouthful, it turns out that the primitivo grape from Italy is almost genetically identical to zinfandel, and both are clones of a Croatian grape. Sure, you could grab your favorite American zin from the shelf but why not try something new? Red fruit, black cherry, and plums are present on the palate, contrasted by some spice, tobacco, and licorice aromas. Though full-bodied, the wine remains fresh and vibrant, making it the perfect pairing for a plate of grilled veggies — meat, optional.

7. South African pinotage with game meat

The U.S. takes great pride in its barbecue culture, and several countries in South America are equally worthy players in the grilling scene. Yet, South Africa might not come to mind when you think of grilling up a storm. Game meats, sausages, and cast-iron pots slow-cooking all day are just some of the delicacies you'll want to taste. Locally, the event and cooking method is known as braai, and it's something of a national sport. So, you know if a winery calls itself Braai Wines, it's going to be the obvious choice for a barbecue.

You could pick up a familiar bottle of cabernet sauvignon, but for a true braai experience, we recommend the pinotage. This hybrid grape was created when a South African scientist crossed cinsault and pinot noir vines nearly a century ago. There are very limited plantings outside of its home country, and it's certainly a local favorite. Pick up a bottle Braai Wines pinotage to go with grilled lamb, venison, and game meat sausages. With earth, leather, and smoke aromas on the nose and dark fruits and cherries on the palate, this is a winner paired with the charred flavors of a summer barbecue. Medium-full tannins and a bold mouthfeel allow this wine to stand up to the flavors of the grill.

8. Carménère with sausages and pork chops

Argentina might be the source of a lot of barbecue buzz in the Southern hemisphere, but Chileans love to gather around and grill some meat with their loved ones too. The country's star grape, carménère, is originally from France, but nowadays it's primarily grown in Chile and enjoyed by locals. Here, it comes in a range of styles depending on the origin of the vineyards, offering fruitier lush flavors or bolder vegetal aromas.

Make Casa Silva's carménère your go-to pairing with smoky grilled sausages or pork chops. Enjoy aromas of wild berries in every sip, with subtle notes of tobacco and a structured finish thanks to time spent aging in oak barrels. The tannins are fairly soft, making each mouthful smoother than the last. Still, the wine offers a fuller-bodied palate that suits the fatty cuts of pork meat, as well as any condiments you might want to slather on top.

9. Albariño to go with seafood

The charred flavors of grilled foods make them a natural pairing with red wine, but white wines have plenty to offer as well. While there are plenty of notable pairings with meat and white wine, seafood shouldn't be dismissed when you're planning your summer barbecues. The options are abundant and encompass fish, shellfish, and mollusks, so there's no excuse that the choices are lacking.

To pair with our favorite seafood dishes, we love a Spanish albariño, which partly owes its salinity and zesty crispness to its seaside location. Salty sea breezes coasting over the vineyards result in the perfect pairing for a plate of grilled seafood fare. Paco & Lola is a reputable producer in Spain's Rías Baixas region, and its albariño highlights everything we love about the grape. Grapefruit and lime are present on the palate, balanced by hints of white flowers, orange blossoms, and a tropical finish. Sip on it as you wait for the food to cook, and make sure to stock up on an extra bottle because it's sure to go fast.

10. Sparkling rosé to wash anything down

If sparkling wine can elevate a dining experience, rosé bubbles do so with more pizzazz. while it may feel more whimsical, rosé Champagne is often a more serious style than its colorless counterpart. Nevertheless, a casual backyard barbecue doesn't require a pricey high-end wine. Instead, pick up a bottle of rosé frizant by Mas de Daumas Gassac. Produced in Southern France where rosé reigns supreme, this bubbly number makes for an easy-drinking experience.

The wine is made with a blend of red grapes, primarily cabernet sauvignon and mourvèdre. These bolder varieties stand out with rich fruit-forward flavors that are enjoyable paired with or without food. The Charmat method used in the secondary fermentation results in a softer mousse that goes down smoothly. Tropical fruits, blood orange, and a salty finish round out this sparkling wine for a winning combination. Sip on this bubbly rosé with a burger or grilled shrimp, or pass the bottle around as your barbecue guests show up.

11. Petite sirah with saucy ribs

If you don't mind getting a little messy during your meal, ribs are an ideal choice for a barbecue. Part of the appeal of a charred rack of ribs is the barbecue sauce slathered on top as it cooks, producing an unapologetically sticky result. Whether your go-to rib order consists of pork or beef, we recommend pairing it with a wine made from petite sirah.

Confusingly, it's not a smaller version of syrah, but one of the grape's offspring (yes, fruit reproduces). You won't find much petite sirah around, and most of it is grown in California. Because of its typically high tannin levels, it makes a great pairing with fatty meat such as ribs, since it cuts right through the grease.

Two Angels makes an excellent version that is brimming with dark berry flavors, cherry, plum, toasted oak, and a gamey finish. Although the wine is bold and full-bodied, it is well-balanced and pleasantly smooth. While you might not sip on this hearty wine at an all-day barbecue, it is a solid match when it's time to dig into a pile of saucy ribs.

12. Skin-contact pinot grigio with lightly spiced dishes

White wine made following red winemaking techniques may have previously shown up on your radar as orange, macerated, or skin-contact wine. No matter how you refer to it, it's a versatile style of wine that lends itself well to food pairings. In the case of your summer barbecue, let a bottle of skin-contact wine be your go-to match for lightly spiced dishes. Thanks to the influence of grape skins, white wines develop more nuanced aromas of dried fruit, tea, and nuts.

You won't look at pinot grigio the same way after you pick up a bottle of ramato by Channing Daughters in Long Island. The grape turns a pleasant copper color with skin contact, and this example doesn't disappoint. Notes of honey, dried apricots, pear, stewed apples, baking spices, and tropical fruit come together in this one-of-a-kind pinot grigio. Serve it chilled with lamb kofta, Moroccan spiced chicken, Cajun rubbed salmon, or spicy chorizo.

13. Chenin blanc with shellfish and white fish

If your idea of a summer barbecue includes freshly caught (or recently purchased) fish and shellfish, then you'll want a bright white wine on the table to tie it all together. While fattier fish like tuna and salmon warrant a bolder wine, delicate white fish fares better with a high-acid aromatic style. Our favorite choice in this category is chenin blanc, South Africa's star white variety and a mainstay of France's Loire Valley.

Lubanzi chenin blanc is grown in the Swartland wine region of South Africa, an inspiring area loaded with history and motivated winemakers. Made with an assortment of grapes from various vineyards and soil types, this wine is layered with vibrant flavors and a mineral streak. Stone fruit and pear are present on the palate, with subtle hints of melon to round it out. Juicy green apple amps up the acidity making this a palate-quenching wine to pour with your seafood feast. Aside from a simple whole charred fish, grilled shrimp with mango or pineapple salsa would make an excellent pairing option as well with this zesty wine.

14. Cabernet sauvignon with steak

We can't talk about firing up the grill and cracking open a bottle of wine without mentioning a tried and true classic. Steaks are the perfect fuss-free barbecue option (granted you're using the right grilling method for the cut). For an easy option that will pair seamlessly with a bottle of cab, opt for a New York strip, which offers the ideal balance of fat, texture, and flavor. If you're going for a fattier steak, choose a cabernet with heavy tannins to cut right through. Meanwhile, a leaner cut of meat could benefit from a silkier fruitier style of wine.

Justin cabernet sauvignon is a versatile bottle that pairs especially well with filet mignon, though it will accompany other cuts too. Blackberries, dark cherries, baking spices, and dried herbs are notable in every sip, with a smooth finish that lingers long after your last glass. A lightly toasted oak influence and a hint of vanilla are palpable on the palate, mingling with the umami taste of the grilled beef.