Would you like some wine with your burger?

Burger

Image by Robin Goldsmith

Beer is often the drink of choice with a BBQ and why wouldn't it be? What could be better than standing outside with friends, an ice-cold bottle of your favourite beer in hand, waiting for your chargrill-flavoured treats to arrive? Well, wine is an alternative and there are many options. Both sparkling and high-acid white wines are great for cleansing your palate and lightly tannic reds can be a refreshing choice too, especially if lightly chilled. However, with a barbecued steak, you could opt for a wine with more tannin as this natural tenderiser will bind with protein and break down fat, which in turn softens the tannins, as well as softening the texture of the meat, enhancing the juicy flavours in both.

As with all food and drink pairings, the key here is to match the weight of the wine with the power of the strongest ingredient in the food, which could be the spice rub, marinade or sauce used to flavour the barbecued food. So wines with ripe, juicy fruit characteristics which aren't overly alcoholic work well with sweet BBQ glazes for example, balancing smoky flavours, as well as any chilli heat in spicier food. Also, BBQs are party-like, fun, light-hearted and casual, so your choice of wine should reflect that.

With National BBQ Week approaching fast in the UK (May 30th - June 5th), I held a private tasting of wines to accompany summer BBQs. All the wines are available nationwide from various retailers or online and cost less than £15 RRP. They were enjoyed by the participants who commented how different the wines were in style and therefore would suit a variety of BBQ dishes. With no forewarning on price, country of origin or grape variety and thus no preconceptions on quality, the average price people expected the wines to be was £11.40, which turned out to be remarkably accurate. The average bottle price for the UK wine market as a whole has already broken through the £5 barrier at supermarkets and £8 elsewhere, so perhaps these findings reflect a growing realisation that good wine is worth paying that little bit extra for!

Vineyard

Stellenbosch Mountain & Vineyards

The wines and tasting notes

In the U.S., official BBQ season begins on Memorial Day weekend, the last Monday in May that is set aside to salute American veterans for their service. Check out a previous article on The Alcohol Professor for some childhood memories of the weekend plus some strictly adult cocktail suggestions! Both National BBQ Week in the UK and Memorial Day in the US offer good reasons to enjoy a variety of libations, so before reaching for that cooling beer, spare a thought for the alternatives that can enhance your food enjoyment. Enjoy your burgers and give peace and wine a chance!

All images provided by UK specialists in premium wine, Hatch Mansfield, unless otherwise stated.

This article is also available on The Alcohol Professor website.