Wines for a Summer Barbecue

Charles Fredy is an advanced sommelier with the Court of Master Sommeliers, and a certified specialist of wine with the Society of Wine Educators. A thirty-four-year veteran of the wine-and-spirits industry, he is director of sales and marketing for Chambers & Chambers Wine Merchants Hawai‘i.


Story by Charles Fredy


bbq winesWith summer upon us and backyard grills getting fired up, I want to share some of my favorite wine pairings to enhance your next barbecue. Given the variety of foods we grill these days, my first suggestion is to choose a versatile wine that works well with poultry, game and other meats.

Red wines from the Rhone Valley region of France are an excellent choice. A Northern Rhone Valley syrah such as a Crozes-Hermitage is especially well suited. Its flavors of bacon and smoke, black pepper, and juicy black and red fruit mirror the flavors created on the grill: the sweet fruits work to balance the tangy sauce, and the wine’s spiciness matches the seasonings in the food without being overpowered by them. Minerality is another intriguing component. I love the way the black-granite flavor picks up the char of the meat.

Rhone wines aren’t your only choices, of course. If you like California wines, Zinfandel works well with barbecue for many of the same reasons. The way it combines fresh raspberry, cherry, blackberry, plum and spice means it is always near my grill.

Give some thought, as well, to your wine’s alcohol content. Stay with selections that don’t go much higher than 14 percent, and you’ll strike a happy balance with the powerful flavors of glazed, smoky foods.

Regional pairings are still one of the simplest ways to match wine with food. For example, many Argentines like to grill over wood fires, and typically their dish will be beef. Perhaps because they consume a lot of red meat, they create wines that work well with it — rustic, hardy, big-
flavored wines that match up to big-flavored foods. Malbec, syrah and red blends from the Mendoza wine region are outstanding choices, combining big fruit intensity with earth and spice.

If you’re feeling inspired by the barbecue dishes featured in this issue’s dining section, try them with some of these wines:

  1. Storybook Mountain Winery Zinfandel, Mayacamas Range, Napa Valley, California, 2010 paired with Hali‘imaile General Store’s barbecued baby back ribs and citrus-chili sauce
  2. La Tarasque, Cotes Du Rhone, France, 2010 paired with fare from Fat Daddy’s Smokehouse BBQ: lean ribs, pulled pork, beef brisket, and smoked brat sausage
  3. Vina Cobos, Malbec, Bramare, Lujan de Cuyo, Mendoza, Argentina, 2010 paired with Chef Cameron Lewark’s Maui venison in plum-wine sauce


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