The Best Wine Pairings For Grilled Food

How to pair summery wine with grilled foods

?May is Grilling Month at Tasting Table.

When it comes to the great outdoors, there are two types of people: those who prefer to hold a spatula and those who feel more comfortable carrying a glass. For the spirit of this story, let's all be the ones with the glasses. Because really, what's a grill without a cold beverage?

Wine doesn't usually come to mind when you hear the word "barbecue," but we asked Doreen Winkler, sommelier at George Mendes's New York restaurants Aldea and newly opened Lupolo, if she could pair some summery wines with grilled foods. So she filled us in on her process.

Winkler prefers to work with small wineries and envelope-pushing winemakers who are willing to try new techniques. Then she looks at texture, both of the wine and the composed dish. A nice-to-have (but not strictly necessary) component is whether there are any matching ingredients, like herbs, fruits or vegetables. Finally, she takes note of the salt, spice or acid level to avoid pairing a high-acid wine with a high-acid dish—ditto salty and spicy.

With all that in mind, here are her pairing tips to help you make the most out of your next cookout.

Seafood: For grilled oysters with a mignonette sauce, Winkler suggests Barranco Oscuro. This Brut Nature from Andalucia is yeasty with notes of lychee, apple cider and sherry. "The viscosity reminds me of the ocean," Winkler says, while the minerality of the wine cleans out the saltiness of the oysters. Uivo Reserva Branco, a Portuguese wine from Folias de Baco, is perfect for grilled lobster with a citrus or herb butter. Grown from old vines, the blend has aromas of tarragon, basil and lemon zest, and its rich texture works well with meaty seafood. "It's the most herbaceous wine I've had to date," Winkler says.

For lighter fare, like scallops and grilled nectarines, pour a glass of Puzelat-Bonhomme Rosé Petillant Naturel NV for the perfect summer bubbly. This natural sparkling wine is vibrant and fruit forward, with a prickly acidity. "The aroma of nectarine skins match the fruit in the dish, and the high acidity adds even more freshness to the plate," Winkler says.

Beef and Bacon: To honor that most American of fare—i.e., hamburgers, preferabally topped with bacon—Winkler points to Colombaia Vigna Nuova, a Tuscan sparkling red made from Sangiovese and Colorino grapes. Aged in Slovenian oak casks using only native yeasts, this light-bodied red is best when chilled. "The high acidity cuts right into the fat of the bacon, while at the same time, it's light bodied enough to not overpower any of the meats."

Lamb: Grass-fed lamb with a deeply pungent chimichurri sauce finds its match in Aphros Vinhao, a sparkling red from the Vinho Verde region of Portugal, with dark berry, ash and cocoa aromas, and soft but persistent bubbles. "This medium-body wine will complement but not overpower the rare lamb chops, and the acidity will take the edge off of the lightly spicy sauce," Winkler says. "The charcoal grill flavors are a perfect combination for the ash aroma in the wine."

Chicken: An orange wine—aka a white wine with tannins—from Ruth Lewandowski in Mendocino County, Chilion, is the ideal foil for chicken with smoky paprika. The wine has the aroma of apricots, baking spice, candied orange rind and crushed rocks. It has a pleasant zip of tannin and a light, refreshing acidic flavor to offset the richness of the meat.