What Wines Should You Serve at a BBQ?

A bold Zinfandel is a great choice if you’re serving grilled steak. Light-bodied reds like Pinot Noir and GSM Blend are also good choices with burgers, chicken, veggie skewers, and smoked BBQ meats.

You can serve a zesty Sauvignon Blanc or a fresh Chardonnay if you’re grilling seafood.

Spicy

If your BBQ features spicy or savory foods, you want to serve a wine that will balance out the flavors. A dry wine will only enhance the spice of your food, which can be a painful experience for guests. Instead, look for wines with a touch of sweetness or fruitiness that can add another dimension to your meal.

A crisp Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand, a zippy Sancerre, or a zesty Gruner Veltliner pair well with grilled chicken and vegetables. A fruity Riesling with aromas and flavors of ripe peaches, apricots, and honey works well with grilled sausages and skewers of grilled fruits and veggies.

Generally speaking, red wines work best with beef cuts and sauce-covered proteins. A full-bodied Zinfandel, a smooth Merlot, or a red blend with Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec works great with most grilled steaks and burgers. A rich and fruity Syrah can also complement a bold-flavored burger or a juicy, well-charred sirloin. You may also want to try Vranec wine so that your friends or family members can try something different besides the usual varieties. You can check out our article, Learn More About Vranec, A Grape Variety from The Balkans, to know more about Vranec wine.

Regional BBQ styles can also inspire wine pairings. For example, a Memphis-style barbecue is characterized by a thin, tangy sauce made with tomato paste, molasses, vinegar, paprika, garlic, and black pepper. This tangy, peppery sauce pairs perfectly with a fruity and slightly smoky medium-bodied red like Lambrusco, Carignan, shiraz, or a Sicilian Etna Rosso.

A light, easy-drinking white wine like Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, or a crisp Vinho Verde pairs nicely with chicken, shrimp, and grilled fish. A dry Riesling with citrusy, tropical fruit notes and hints of lime can also complement these foods. If you’re serving a BBQ with classic, tangy, or sweet marinades on meats, try pairing them with a Zinfandel or Malbec. These juicy, jammy reds can stand up to the tangy flavors of most marinades and complement a variety of BBQ rubs. The same goes for a rich and fruity Syrah, which can easily pair with both classic BBQ sauces and the sweeter, more tangy marinades on meats like brisket or pulled pork.

Smoked

Many of the most popular barbecue dishes are smoked and, therefore, pair well with full-bodied red wines. These will balance out the fat in meat like brisket or pulled pork, and also help to enhance the sweet, tangy, peppery sauces that are usually served alongside. To fully enjoy these dishes, look for a smooth Zinfandel or Malbec with fruity notes that work well with traditional BBQ sauces as well as those with added sweetness.

Another classic wine to serve at a barbecue is Pinot Noir, which pairs wonderfully with grilled fish, chicken, and grilled vegetables. A glass of Pinot can even help cut through the richness of some of the heavier barbecue sauces and marinades.

Lighter whites such as Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Grigio are also excellent for pairing with BBQ fare. Crisp, citrus-flavored Sauvignon Blanc will work wonders with grilled fish and shellfish, as well as fresh corn on the cob slathered in butter. Pinot Grigio is also a great option for pairing with chicken and vegetable skewers.

A crisp, dry rose can also be a lovely beverage to serve guests at your BBQ. With fruity hints from strawberry to peach, this summer favorite will go perfectly with a variety of grilled dishes.

If you are serving a beef-based dish such as a steak or a burger at your barbecue, try a full-bodied red wine with hints of blackberry and spice. Zinfandel is perfect for this kind of food and also works well with ribs or other smoked meats. The deep color of a Cabernet Sauvignon is also great for this type of dish, as is a red blend that combines Cabernet Sauvignon with other fruits such as Merlot, Tempranillo, and Petit Verdot.

Of course, don’t forget that the most important thing at a barbecue is to have fun and make memories with friends and family. So don’t worry about purchasing 10 different types of wine and imposing strict pairing regulations! As long as the wine is appropriately chilled, cleansed of the smokey flavor from the grill, and served in a sturdy glass (skip the plastic ones!), you can’t go wrong.

Sweet

Many people think of beer and pitcher drinks when it comes to barbecues, but there are plenty of great wines to choose from too. Providing your guests with a choice of wine will elevate the overall experience and ensure everyone finds something they enjoy. Whether it’s a light and crisp white, a fruity rose, or a deep red, you can also create a range of delicious summer wine cocktails to help your guests get into the spirit of the occasion.

When serving barbecued meat, you’ll want a wine with a little body to help cut through the fat and complement the smoky flavor of the dish. For a classic beef burger, try a Pinot Noir, Zinfandel, or Tempranillo. A Chardonnay or a New Zealand or Chilean Sauvignon Blanc will go well for a BBQ chicken salad. If you’re preparing a pulled pork sandwich or ribs, a sweeter wine like Grenache, Dry Riesling, or Ruby Port will pair nicely with these dishes’ sugary and smoky tastes.

If your grilled meat is a little more “Bonanza” than Ron Swanson, then you’ll want to serve a fuller-bodied wine to go with it. A Malbec or a Shiraz will work well with most types of meat and will also go well with the peppery, smoky flavors of certain grilled veggies like roasted bell peppers, onions, and zucchini.

A glass of crisp, dry Rosé with a hot dog or some grilled veggies is an excellent option when serving a vegetarian-focused meal or for those who prefer to avoid meat altogether. This versatile wine variety is packed with juicy fruit notes that go well with nearly all grilling recipes. If you’re putting together a seafood-based barbecue, a zesty Chardonnay or even a Pinot Grigio will be a welcome addition to the table. This lighter white wine will also complement buttery grilled fish or chicken, and it goes beautifully with grilled corn on the cob drizzled with butter.

Chilled

While beer may be the mainstay around barbecues, wine can definitely take the spotlight when properly paired. From chilled whites and fruity reds to rich sparkling wines, a wide selection of wine types will complement nearly any barbecue dish.

When choosing a wine for your BBQ, it’s important to consider your dishes’ fat and spice levels. For example, fatty meats like brisket or pulled pork pair well with white wines with high acidity, such as Sauvignon Blanc or Chardonnay. These light-bodied wines will help cut through the fatty meats and sweet marinades. On the other hand, leaner meat like chicken or fish will work best with a lighter, medium-bodied wine such as Grechetto, Pinot Noir, White Rioja, Marsanne-Blends, and Tempranillo.

For a wine that pairs well with almost BBQ, look for one with moderate tannins and many fruit flavors. A Pinot Noir is an ideal choice for BBQ as it offers ripe notes of peaches, apricots, and honey while also having enough body to pair well with many grilled vegetables and fruits such as melon and figs. A crisp and fruity Riesling is another perfect BBQ wine offering floral aromas and juicy flavors of apricots and peaches.

If you want to serve something a little more indulgent, opt for a sweeter wine with higher alcohol content. Sparkling wines like cava and prosecco are a fun and festive way to elevate your backyard celebration, and they’re great for cutting through the sweetness of BBQ sauces. A Gewurztraminer is another good option as it’s a bit more intense and will still provide plenty of fruit flavors for pairing with sweet BBQ dishes.

A Zinfandel is a great choice for more robust reds as it’s jammy and fruit-forward to pair with classic BBQ sauces or tangy marinades. A smooth Syrah will also do the trick, as it can stand up to the smokey and peppery flavors of smoked meats such as ribs and pulled pork. If you want to go the extra mile, consider serving ice cubes made from your wine, as they’re sure to be a hit with guests. For those who are health-conscious and are searching for responsible drinking choices, you may also serve lower-alcohol wines. Learn more about them in our post, Can Lower Alcohol Wines Elevate Your Drinking Experience Without the Buzz?