7 Rules for Pairing Wine With Grilled Food
Grill like a girl
Make your grilling more glam by choosing the perfect wines for any food that comes off the grates.
Elizabeth Karmel, executive chef at Hill Country in New York City, creator of
girlsatthegrill.com, and author of St. Francis Girls’ Guide to Grilling shares 7 pairing tips and a delicious wine marinade so you can have your most delicious outdoor meal yet.
Just remember the most important rule—go with what you like!
White usually means light
In general, light-bodied wines come from white wine grapes and pair well with lighter fare such as chicken, seafood, and grilled veggies. Bold, full-bodied red wines enhance the flavors in most types of meat, like burgers, steaks, and lamb, and freshly grilled pizzas.
However, certain types of grilled fish, like a smoked salmon fillet or swordfish steak, pair well with a medium-bodied merlot.
Think about flavor
Food and wines with shared characteristics typically go well together. For example, a salt-and-pepper steak tastes great with a peppery Zinfandel. It wouldn’t be prudent to match very mild foods, like a piece of sole, with a full-bodied, flavorful wine because it will overpower the subtle flavors in the fish.
White before red
If you are having more than one type of wine with a meal, keep this suggestion in mind: Drink white wine before red and lighter wines before heavier ones to help your palate adjust.
An easy way to find a winning combination is to match the texture and intensity of the food with an equally complex or simple wine. For instance, basic shrimp scampi goes really well with Chardonnay, but adding hot red pepper and garlic to the dish makes Zinfandel a better match because the spicy notes in the wine complement the pepper in the dish.
Sometimes opposites attract
Though matching wine to flavors is the typical rule, sometimes, a slightly sweeter wine offsets the spiciness in a dish. For example, a crisp Chardonnay is great when paired with flavor-packed Asian dishes.
Pair protein with dry wines
Dry wines, like Cabernet Sauvignon, work best with high-protein food, such as steak and aged cheese. They are rich in tannins, which help cleanse the palate of fats, making your wine a refreshing complement to your meal.
A recipe for rich foods
If you’re eating a heavy meal, a luscious wine, like a Chardonnay, will complement very rich foods. Another option is full-flavored wines with high acidity (often found in Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon) to cut through the oils in the dish.
For: Fish, poultry, and pork, use a Chardonnay; beef and lamb, use a Merlot
Time: 30 minutes to 1 hour for small pieces. No more than 5 to 6 hours for whole roasts.
Makes: 3.5 cups
2 cups of your favorite wine
1 cup water
¼ cup (packed) light brown sugar
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tbsp. coarse kosher salt or sea salt
1 tbsp. chopped fresh or dried rosemary leaves
1 tbsp. dehydrated garlic
Combine all the ingredients in a non-reactive bowl (glass or stainless-steel) and whisk until the salt and sugar are dissolved. Alternatively, dissolve in warm water and then add the rest of the ingredients; make sure the marinade is cool before using. The marinade will keep, tightly covered, in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.