A Complete Guide to Wine and BBQ Pairing


Beer and barbecue may seem like a pair as natural as Romeo and Juliet or Sonny and Cher, but brews are not the only alcoholic beverage choice to go with your grilled or smoked food. It’s important to understand what flavors enhance each other to find a wine that fits well with different types of foods. With so many options available, things can get confusing fast. We’re providing a complete guide to wine and bbq pairing so you can focus on your front porch sipping!

Basic Tips

Before getting into the specifics, there are some general tips to keep in mind:

  • The main goal in pairing wine with food is to ensure they complement each other. Match characteristics like weight, the intensity of flavors, and acid.
  • On the other hand, contrasting flavor profiles can help balance the overall taste. Salty and sweet or sweet and spicy pairing can neutralize any flavors that overpower the meal.
  • Red wine doesn’t always have to pair with meat and white wine doesn’t always go with fish. Some bolder fish like salmon can pair well with red wines and pork goes great with white wine.
  • When in doubt, pair your food with wine from the same region. Making some lamb chops? Grab a wine from Australia or New Zealand!
  • Bold flavors, especially in smoked foods, can overpower lighter wines, so pair those foods with big, bold wines. Save delicate wines for delicate foods like light white fish.
  • If it’s hot out, you should chill your red wines! Even the boldest wines can benefit from being chilled to “room temperature” (65°F).

Red Wine and bbq Pairing

Generally speaking, most beef and proteins covered in barbecue sauce will go well with red wine. This is because the umami and high fat in the meat will balance out the tannins in the red wine.

For grilled beef dishes, especially those with no sauce, try a wine with a lighter body like Malbec or Syrah/Shiraz. Big and bold steaks like a ribeye go with big and bold wines like Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, or Cabernet Franc. These wines will enhance the peppery flavors in the dish. Other good options include Sangiovese and Chianti. For burgers, enjoy a bottle of Zinfandel or Grenache.

When grilling with a barbecue sauce, your choice of wine will depend more on the sauce than the protein:

  • Sweet Sauce: Petite Sirah, Monastrell, Pinotage
  • Spicy-Mustard Sauce: Sangiovese and Montepulciano d’Abruzzo
  • Classic Sauce: Carménère, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon

Smoked meats like brisket pair well with full-bodied and oak-aged wines like Tempranillo and Shiraz. Sausages will also go well with Tempranillo, as well as Gamay and Pinot Noir.

Pork can be paired with either a bolder white wine or a lighter red wine. Go for a Barbera, Garnacha, or Pinot Noir. Or, if you’re feeling adventurous, try it with Port wine on ice. With heavier fish like salmon, you don’t need to go with white wine. Light-bodied Beaujolais or Pinot Noir will not overpower the salmon’s flavors.

Speaking of Pinot Noir, it’s an incredibly versatile red wine option. It goes well with smoked poultry, brisket, grilled salmon, lamb, and pork. It’s a food-friendly wine with delicate flavors that don’t overpower the food but also has an earthy quality that pairs well with grilled and smoked meats. It’s a perfect wine and bbq pairing!

White Wine and bbq Pairing

Don’t discount white wine as a good pairing for grilled or barbecued food! It goes well with lighter options like grilled seafood, poultry, and vegetables!

For grilled seafood like white fish and oysters, we recommend selecting a Spanish Albariño or Verdejo, a Portuguese Vinho Verde, or a Sauvignon Blanc. The acidity and minerality in these wines are perfect for fishy dishes. Bolder fish like salmon should go with Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, or something with a similar bold profile.

Poultry is a natural choice for a white wine pairing. Riesling’s high acidity and light fruit flavors are perfect for grilled chicken. Other options include Sauvignon Blanc and Grüner, or unoaked chardonnay. These wines are citrusy, grassy, and light like chicken. Adding barbecue sauce to your chicken? The sweet sauce should go with some sweeter wine like a more intense Gewürztraminer or off-dry Riesling.

Pork should be paired with heavier white wines like Dry Riesling. When grilling vegetables, consider fresher wines like Chenin Blanc. And don’t forget about dessert! Grilled fruits go well with wines like Pinot Gris and Pinot Grigio.

The safest bet for a white wine to go with your barbecue is a Chardonnay. It’s a great pairing with everything from simply-seasoned grilled poultry to shellfish. Just make sure to pay attention to the varying styles. Lighter flavors should go with crisp, unoaked Chardonnay and smoky flavors should go with full-bodied, oaked Chardonnay.

Sparkling Wine & Rosé

Every occasion is a time to celebrate! Sparkling wines are perfect for grilled seafood, chicken, vegetables, and desserts. Grab some French Champagne, Italian Prosecco, or Spanish Cava when cooking these foods.

Last but not least is the ever-so-popular Rosé. Due to its acidity and fresh fruity flavors, this wine can be paired with light grilled foods and bolder cuts of meat. Rosés have a wide range of styles from the bold wines of Spain, South America, and Washington State to the lighter wines from Provence. A dry Rosé goes well with pork and a sweeter one will be perfect for barbecue chicken. For the best of both worlds, pair a heavier seafood option like salmon with a glass of Rosé Champagne!

We hope this guide to wine and BBQ pairing will make the selection process less intimidating so you can focus on enjoying your delicious meal!