How to be chill at the grill this summer by choosing the right wine.

Phew! Atlanta summers are like no other! We all know that trying to stay cool while standing by the grill can be tough, especially if you’re worried that you wines won’t hold up to the bold flavors coming off the grill. However, everything feels a little chiller when you have the perfect wine to pair with what’s grilling.  Whether it’s a dense and marbled ribeye or a perfectly smoked filet of salmon, there is a wine that will pair with it beautifully. You might be asking, what does “grilling” have to do with what wine I’ll select? This week we are going to explore how the flavors coming from the grill and barbeque sauce can factor into your wine pairing decisions. 

When grilling, you are immediately adding a whole other level of flavor to your dishes. But, before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s make sure to start with the basics by looking at the big and bold Cabernet Sauvignon. Cabernet is always going to pair well with grilled, fattier meats, particularly steaks. The umami and high fat in the meat pairs perfectly with the tannin of the wine, creating a balance. Fat and tannin go together like PB & J; one balances out the other creating a more enjoyable experience. I like peanutbutter, and I like jelly. But the combinmation of the two together is much better than either by themselves.

When cooking with pork or any barbeque, wine decisions start to get a little more complicated as several additional flavors are added to the natural flavors of the meat. When making wine selections, you may want to consider several of these factors: the tang of BBQ sauce, the spice level, the smoke from the smoker, the flavor from the woodchips, and of course, that underlying sweetness that ties it all together. I know that it seems nearly impossible to pair a wine when having to consider so many factors, but never fear! I am here! The best thing is to think of trying to achieve balance between you and your wine and your food. You want to find a wine that will add fruit to the equation while still matching the smoke and spice of the meat, creating a balance between itself and the meat. Zinfandel can be a great option due to its bold and jammy fruit properties that are still detectable when put up against the powerful barbeque flavors. Zinfandel, while having such intense fruit properties, also has the flavors of spice and smoke. This naturally highlights the flavors of the barbeque and allows the fruit properties of the wine to shine. 

There is another fun option when pairing with the smoke and spice of barbeque (and really wine pairings in general) which is to pair things that are opposites, yet somehow complimentary. I love the pairing of sweet and spicy. It is always a great way to have an explosion of surprising flavors. When doing this you aren’t trying to find matching flavor profiles. Instead, you are putting sweet against spicy, which we do constantly with food, we just don’t always think to do it with our wine. It’s very similar to the concept of salted caramel; adding salt to something sweet, two opposing flavors that you think won’t work, yet create a phenomenal experience for your taste buds. A great way to achieve this in wine pairing is by drinking one of my personal favorites, Riesling. What is so great about Riesling is that it comes in a variety of levels of “sweetness”, always has great acidity due to the climate, and can often be bone-dry. I know there are those of you that may be skeptical, but the pairing of spicy, smoky pork with a crisp, slightly-sweet Riesling, can be exceptional. The sweetness and spice don’t cancel each other out, instead they complement each other, each one bringing out pleasant and surprising qualities of the other.  

I hope this has helped you with your next cook-out! Now, these are only a few of my personal tips, tricks and wine pairings for grilling, so please join me the evening of Tuesday, July 9th as we further explore this topic. We will be tasting and discussing wines that will pair beautifully with anything you decide to throw on the grill this Summer. The wines we will be tasting are listed below. I look forward to seeing you there! 

Locations by Dave Phinney, F5 Rosé, France NV

Perfumed with fresh red berries, ripe watermelon, wildflowers, and hint of dusty minerality. The entry is fresh and supple with a raspberry foundation that is accentuated with tangerine and sappy strawberry notes. The finish is a sprightly one thanks to flinty, stony details and bright tones of acidity. 

Long Shadows, ‘Poet’s Leap,’ Riesling, Columbia Valley WA 2016

92+ pts. Robert Parker 

Offering up aromas of lime, lemon oil, white flowers and very subtle petrol that wouldn’t be out of place in the Mosel. On the palate, it’s light to medium-bodied, racy and mouthwatering, with lovely intensity and purity, concluding with a stony finish. 

Louis Martini, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley 2016  

92+ pts. Robert Parker 

84% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9% Petite Sirah, 5% Petit Verdot, 1% Merlot and 1% Malbec, aged in 30% new French and American oak. On the nose, it gives up bold notions of cassis, black cherries and spice box with hints of cedar and fragrant earth. The palate is medium to full-bodied, firm and grainy with loads of muscular fruit accented by a notable but not overwhelming oaky presence, going to a long, layered finish. 

Bear Flag, Zinfandel, Sonoma County 2016

91pts. Robert Parker

Blended of 89% Zinfandel, 7% Petite Sirah and 4% Teroldego and aged in French and American oak. This wine bursts from the glass with baked raspberries, redcurrant jelly and Black Forest cake notes with hints of tree bark, cracked pepper and Indian spices plus a waft of potpourri. Full-bodied, rich, velvety and wonderfully spicy in the mouth, it gives up loads of earthy layers on the long finish. 

2015 Brancaia Tre “Super Tuscan”  

91pts. James Suckling

80% Sangiovese with 10% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon. Lovely density and vibe to this 2015 red with cherry, strawberry and orange peel character. Medium body, fine tannins and a fresh finish.

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