Wines to Drink with Grilled Meat

July  4, 2013

We may have food down cold, but wine? This is where we'll conquer it. Join us; we don't want to drink alone. 

Today: What to drink when you light up the grill today (!), and this holiday weekend.

Shop the Story

There are people who grill in the summertime only, and then there are people who grill year-round even when they live in places where they need to chip ice off the knobs on their grill in the wintertime.

That's an accurate profile of my friend Richard, who grills food for his family two or three times a week every week of the year. Some nights it's skirt steak, or hamburgers, some nights it's chicken breast, whole fish, or peaches. A few years ago Richard founded Israeli Wine Direct, an importing company for wines from Israel, which means he's always got something to drink in his glass as he's grilling.

“It's part of the ritual,” he says. “There's a lot of preparation. But the first thing you do is get your drink set up.”

Fixing your drink may not be the first thing everyone thinks to do when it comes to grilling, but there's no better time than the Fourth of July to start a new tradition. Get in the spirit -- these ideas for wines should help. 

More: Are you taking your Fourth celebration outside? Bring these picnic wines with you.

Grilled Steak
Keep an eye out for Cabernet Franc from the Loire Valley of France. I especially like the wines of Catherine and Pierre Breton for their consistency and food-friendliness. Their Avis de Vin Fort label is darker than a rosé and still a perfect warm-weather red that’s able, thanks to its crisp acidity, to stand its ground with grilled steak.

Grilled Chicken
With a recipe like this one, you may want to reach for something companionably aromatic and lighter-bodied. White wines from the Languedoc Roussillon region of France, for example, often contain less alcohol yet are full of summertime fruits and flowers like roses, orange blossom, apricots and pears. Try the Muscat-Viognier blend, Le Canon du Marechal, from Domaine Cazes. Or, for an option that suits both the food and the celebratory occasion, reach for a Crémant de Bourgogne (a sparkling wine from Burgundy) such as Veuve Ambal.

Traditional Pairings for Beef
There are very good reasons, generally speaking, why Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa and Malbec from Argentina are go-to choices for grilled steak. Most Napa Cabs, especially when they’re young, are big and bold enough to go head-to-head with the strong, aggressive flavors of grilled and seasoned meat. And, given Argentina’s love for beef cooked on the grill, it’s natural to assume its wines are well-suited to match. Two especially good choices are Cathy Corison, which adds nuance and complexity to formulaic Napa Cabs, and the 2011 Susana Balbo Malbec.

Special Thanks to Natasha Hughes (London, @londonvino), John Corcoran (Sonoma, @DrncPno), and Amy Ullman (Boston, @AmyUllman) for their input on these pairings!

What do you drink when you eat grilled meat? Let us know in the comments! 

Top photos by James Ransom, bottom photo by by Tom Hirschfeld


See what other Food52 readers are saying.

Cathy Huyghe

Written by: Cathy Huyghe

Best advice I've ever heard regarding wine? "Just drink the stuff."