Perfect matches for the barbecue

Related tags Barbecue sauce Cabernet sauvignon Chardonnay Wine

Here's an idea for you. When you're firing up the pub barbie, why not offer a choice of wines? Okay, so barbecue often means beer, but wine can make...

Here's an idea for you. When you're firing up the pub barbie, why not offer a choice of wines? Okay, so barbecue often means beer, but wine can make a perfect match. Though not just any wine as I found out last weekend when a glass of oaky Chardonnay was thrust into my hands along with a rather charred spare rib the combination of oak, smoke and spice completely overwhelmed my tastebuds.

But before you think about which wine to choose, you need to consider the cooking process. Barbecuing is fast and furious. Food is blasted with a high heat to brown or sear the outside and leave the inside juicy. This kind of browning process is more intense and affects the flavour of the meat much more than, say, roasting a joint.

Pepper can enhance plonk

Then you must consider what you're serving with your barbecued food. Salads often come drenched in vinegary dressing, which can throw a wine off completely; and lemon is invariably squeezed over everything that comes off the grill. The latter can flatten a flabby, residual-sugar loaded Chardonnay or in fact any bland, neutral white. And a tannic red would lose it completely, the lemon bringing out all the harshness and bitterness of the tannin.

And there's salt to consider. Too much can make the tannin taste more bitter, so bear that in mind when you're lavishing the soy sauce. Pepper, on the other hand, can actually enhance the flavours in plonk, making it taste classier and fruitier than it really is.

And what about all those accompanying sauces and marinades? Yoghurt-based sauces will kill a wine; the same with barbecue sauce its sweetness will overpower most wines. If there's any salsa action going on, stick to Sauvignon Blanc, which copes well with the fire of red or green chillies. And you can forget chutney vinegar, and too much sugar.

Go bold and fruity

So what to choose? It's true anything coated in barbecue sauce, with its smoky, spicy and typically sweet flavours, poses a challenge for wine pairings. I actually prefer a cocktail in this situation a Sea Breeze, say, or a Margarita, whose sweet-and-sour lime kick provides the perfect foil for the cloying sweetness of the sauce. But then things can get out of hand with cocktails.

So think young, bold, fruity, spicy reds Zinfandel, for example, or Syrah/Shiraz, and Pinotage from South Africa. Your meat is slavered in tomato sauce? Barbera copes admirably. Grilled meats, such as steak, work with a wider range of reds, from young Cabernet or Cabernet Shiraz blends, to Malbec from Argentina aka Barbecue Central. In fact, here's a tip look to the great barbecuers of the world and take their lead: the Argentinians, Americans, Australians and South Africans.

In the event that your barbecue is held on a scorching day, you should offer a good selection of white wines. Reds can taste flabby and lose their aromas in hot weather.

They're not exactly refreshing, either except for a chilled sparkling Aussie Shiraz, if you can get your hands on some. It's a great barbecue wine, with the bubbles cutting through any burnt charcoal notes.

The ultimate barbecue white

But more importantly, spicy foods cry out for a mouth-cooling glug. Zingy, fresh, lemony Sauvignon Blanc works well with grilled vegetables and barbecued seafood, especially oily fish such as sardines and mackerel (look to Chile and South Africa for a cheaper source) and it's superb with tomato. Off-dry Rieslings and aromatic Torrontes from Argentina pair well with spicier, sweeter barbecue flavours.

My ultimate barbecue white, though, is an Austrian Gruner Veltliner, with its gorgeous, white pepper fruit. And if you do have to offer a Pinot Grigio, then try Pinot Gris from Alsace.

But above all, you can't beat a good rose it's this year's summer wine. Rose combines the crispness and freshness of white wine with some of the ripe red fruits typical of reds, finished off with a citrus or watermelon twist to refresh the palate. Look to Navarra in north-east Spain (my favourite source) or the southern Rhane, Languedoc and Provence, while Chile and Argentina are also turning out some decent pinks.

Related topics Spirits & Cocktails

Property of the week


£ 60,000 - Leasehold

Busy location on coastal main road Extensively renovated detached public house Five trade areas (100)  Sizeable refurbished 4-5 bedroom accommodation Newly created beer garden (125) Established and popular business...

Follow us

Pub Trade Guides

View more