Wines for the Grill : From burgers and brats to grilled chicken and veggies there are oodles of options for pairing wines with grilled fare. Start with a high level survey of your plate. Is there more meat than carbs? More sauce than meat? Are there more veggies than anything else? If a form of red meat is the mainstay on the plate, then opt for a solid Zinfandel or Shiraz for spicy wine lovers. A more mellow Merlot for those who prefer their fruit forward and a Cab if that’s your standard palate preference will also give the meat a hand-up. If you find chicken, pork chops or fish on the plate and you are set on a red wine, then a Merlot or Pinot Noir would be a safe bet. For white wine lovers – Chardonnay or a Spanish Albariño will perk up chicken and grilled fish (shellfish included). Sauvignon Blanc is also a star for pairing with grilled veggies, chicken, fish and an array of appetizers. One quick caveat to the meat pairing binge, is if your meat is loaded with a heavy-duty dose of sauce be it barbecue, teriyaki or whatever. If the sauce plays a leading role in the flavor profile of the food, give it the wine pairing priority over the meat.
Wines for Chips and Dips: Believe it or not, a sparkling wine is amazing with salty, greasy potato chips! Talk about versatility. It’s hard to beat an off-dry Riesling (the higher residual sugar does it’s part to tame the heat) or a sparkling Cava for chips and salsa. Another familiar favorite for chips and salsa is a well-chilled Sangria. Consider a bold, Australian Shiraz or an off-dry Rose with a plate full of nachos or buffalo wings. A light sparkling wine will also handle cheesy nachos well, especially if there is a bit of spice to them.
Wines for Veggie Trays: For those opting for the healthy veggie plate and creamy ranch dips, a bright citrus based Sauvignon Blanc with herbal undertones should fit the bill. For a red wine find, give Merlot a shot with your favorite vegetables.
Wines for Casseroles: This match-up is a bit trickier. Take your dominate flavor in the casserole dish. Is it the sauce, seasonings, cream, meat or vegetable and start to tailor the wine to that flavor and fan out from there. For a beef-based casserole, stick with a Cab or Zinfandel. Baked bean casseroles call for the likes of a Shiraz, Zin, Cab Franc or Grenache. A Green Bean casserole needs a Riesling or Sauvignon Blanc. For a cauliflower casserole, opt for an off-dry Riesling, sparkling wine or Gewurztraminer. For a chicken salad type of casserole, served cold – consider a Rose or Riesling. For a creamy chicken casserole, consider a tried and true Chardonnay.
Wines for Salads: Salads are notorious for giving wines a run for their money, due in large part to the acidic vinegar-based dressings or the oil vinegar combinations used to heavily dress a salad. In general, Sauvignon Blanc and Rose wines are your safest bets for the majority of the most popular salads. Pinot Grigio can also come to the rescue of several salad offerings, especially a chef's salad with egg, ham or bacon as the main protein components. If you have to tackle a Caesar salad, consider a Chardonnay or perhaps a Prosecco. For a Cobb salad, again a Sauvignon Blanc or Gewurztraminer. For a salad topped with a creamy Ranch-style dressing, opt for a Chardonnay. Fruit salads call for Riesling (on the sweeter side) or a sparkling wine.
Sangrias: What summer gathering can’t use a pitcher or two of Sangria? Not only does it let the wine go a little further when there are more guests, but it is a welcome reprieve to the standard Margarita or bottle of beer. And the fact that it is a refreshing, summer sipper that will go with just about any food that a backyard barbecue can throw at it, ups its popularity even more!
Whatever you decide to pair with summer's favorite foods, make sure that your wine serving temperatures are on target. The summer heat can turn a good red wine into an over warm alcohol bomb, if attention is not given to serving temps. The same goes for white wines – many times they are stranded on ice until poured and then stuck back in the ice bin and poof, the aromatics and fresh flavors are muted by the frigid temps.