Wine and Walnuts

A blog about eating, drinking, cooking and reading in the not so Deep South

Best Wines for BBQ

public domain image by Jon Sullivan

public domain image by Jon Sullivan

It’s 4th of July – Happy Birthday, America!! – so of course we have to talk about BBQ, and barbecuing.  And wine.

Now here in Eastern North Carolina, when we say “BBQ,” we mean the good stuff – wherein a whole hog is slow-cooked for many hours, then the meat is pulled from the bone, chopped fine, and doused in a vinegar-based “sauce,” if you can call it that. And it is de-lic-i-ous.

However, I realize that BBQ is also a way of cooking or a type of cuisine . . . so let me just preface this blog post by flagging up that when I say “Best Wines for BBQ,” I’m talking about the general variety of cooking meats to make them charred. 

Super-lucky eastern North Carolinians who get to eat the ambrosial pulled-pork version of BBQ will also find useful suggestions here, however.


Spicy Zinfandel with its smoky, peppery qualities is a near perfect match with barbecued meats. Zinfandel’s natural affinity for grilled and barbecued foods means it will nicely complement all sorts of backyard bbq favorites  —  burgers, ribs, chicken, steak — pretty much whatever you throw on the grill this summer is going to work with Zinfandel.  Its big, bold flavors are perfect with the savory richness of grilled and charred meats.

I consider Zinfandel and bbq’ed or grilled meat to be right up there with other “classic,” tried-and-true food and wine pairings, like Sauvignon Blanc and Goat cheese, Spicy Asian food and Riesling, Tomato-based pasta dishes and Sangiovese, or Blue Cheese and sweet dessert wines.  It just works.

I love Zinfandels by Ravenswood, Ridge, Cline, and for something jammy and fruit-forward, Rosenblum.  All of these are widely available locally. But there are a bunch of others that are terrific and well-priced too, so ask your wine purveyor for suggestions.


Cotes Du Rhone is another good choice. Peppery, smoky, and rustic, this spicy red is near perfect complement to grilled and barbecued meats. Cotes du Rhone is a blend of different grapes, therefore, its personality and flavor will depend on the grape makeup of the wine.  So while it’s hard to nail down an exact flavor profile, it will often be medium-bodied, with berry flavors and a smoky, peppery spiciness, wrapped in a softly tannic body. 

The nice thing about Cotes du Rhone is, it’s one of the best value-for-dollars wines out there, AND there will usually be lots of terrific examples to be found at your local wine purveyor. 

For example, here in Wilmington, World Market has several that are stellar for the price.  Just go to the French wine section at the back of the store (it’s right by the furniture), and get yourself a La Vieille Ferme Cotes du Ventoux (for around $7 or $8 bucks!), or the Parallele 45 by Jaboulet, and you’ll be all set.  Other well-priced and delicious Cotes du Rhones come from Guigal, Chapoutier and Chateau de Beaucastel.


Big and spicy, this is another varietal that makes the grill-friendly wine list. With ripe, rich fruit, moderate tannins, and flavors of black pepper and smoke, it will pair well with just about any red meat, and anything smoked or charcoal grilled. 

For decently priced California Syrah, look for those from Bonny Doon Vineyard, Cline, Four Vines, Hahn, Steele and Rosenblum.  Of course you can go for the Australian version, as in Shiraz; you’ll find plenty of examples of Aussie versions at your local wine purveyor. Or if you’re feeling adventurous (and flush, for some examples) try Syrah from its homeland, France’s Northern Rhone Valley.


Yep, I’ve saved the best for last.  : )

Sure, I love Rosé without reservation, for just about any occasion, but it really is an awesome choice for a BBQ.  That’s because Rosé is uber-refreshing when it’s hot out, and has the ability to pair well with just about anything you put on the grill, and it’s flat out terrific with rich and spicy fare like barbecued meats. 

Rosé is also wonderful with pork – “pink with pork,” is something to keep in mind – so it’s a very good match with grilled sausages, and even hot dogs.  Yes, hot dogs. As an added bonus, Rosé also goes well with grilled seafood and veggies. 

A couple of terrific, well-priced Rosés I like are the La Vieille Ferme Cotes du Ventoux Rosé (think of this as the Rosé equivalent to the red version of this wine mentioned above in the Cotes du Rhone section), and Crios de Susana Balbo Rosé of Malbec 2010.  There are 20 Rosés I could recommend here, but these are two are both available at World Market, and the Crios de Susana Balbo Rosé can also be found at Harriss Teeter.

So there ya have it, 4 wine choices for your next backyard BBQ. 

Cheers, and Happy Grillin’!

(For more food and wine pairing suggestions, with recipes, sign up for my food and wine pairing e-course right up there on the top right of the blog!)

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About The Author

Kimberly Houston


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