by Courtney Cochran
Firing, roasting, and grilling are decidedly du rigueur during the summer months, but finding wines that work well with this tricky fare can be a challenge. Just as shining a spotlight on an actor onstage brings her features into focus for an audience, these cooking methods serve to concentrate the flavors of whatever's being cooked, necessitating a wine with both strength and personality to stand up to the food.Read on for the low-down on some of the more common characteristics of flame-cooked fare and how to track down the perfect wines to pair with these traits.
When pairing wines with foods that have been cooked over flames, it's important to consider the nature of the cooking method:
- Grilling introduces flavors of char to a dish since it involves
direct contact between the food and a grill.
Oaked Chardonnay (grilled fish) - Bordeaux reds, especially from appellations Pauillac
and St. Estêphe(grilled meats) - Fumé Blanc (grilled vegetables)
- Roasting, on the other hand, does not introduce these flavors since there's no contact between the food and grill; dishes that have been roasted, instead, tend to have strong savory flavors thanks to the protracted nature of the cooking method.
Southern French reds, especially from appellations Côtes-du-Rhône Villages and
Châteauneuf du Pape (roasted meats including pork and chicken) - Syrah, especially
from France's Côte-Rôtie and Australia's Barossa (roasted meats).
finally, introduces flavors to food often described as "blackened" as a
result of the direct contact between flame and food.
Pinot Gris, especially from France's Alsace (blackened fish and light meats) - Petite
Sirah, especially from California's Amador County (fired dark meats)
Another key consideration when pairing wines with flame-cooked fare is the kind of sauce (if any) that's been used in preparing the dish:
sauce is notoriously sweet, a result of the generous amount of sugar
added to most commercial blends. This sweetness should be matched by a
fruity sweetness in your wine (wines that are overly tannic or lacking
in fresh fruit flavors will taste unappetizingly dry by comparison).
Fruity California Zinfandel, especially from Lodi, Chilean Merlot, and South African or
Australian Shiraz (barbecued meats, including chicken and pork)
and herbs abound in "rubs" that are often applied to meat before it
hits the grill. These translate directly to flavors found in the
finished dish, and as such should be considered in your wine selection.
Wines with peppery or herbal nuances work swimmingly in these
instances; those without these notes are at risk of tasting overly
fruity and one-dimensional.
Italian reds including Barbera and Brunello, Southern French reds and rosés, and
mature Spanish reds from Rioja and Navarra (light and dark meats)
salsas and glazes are some of the trickiest accompaniments to wine.
Often intensely sweet in nature, these require wines that are both
fruity and low in tannin, since the latter tastes terrifically dry with
Riesling, especially Kabinett-level versions from Germany (light meats, fish, and
chicken) - Gewurztraminer (fish and chicken) - French Beaujolais, made from the fruity,
low-tannin Gamay grape (dark meats)