There’s nothing quite like a great British BBQ. No matter what the weather, as a nation we seem to persevere. Now more than ever, socialising with friends and family in our gardens is so important, which is why we’ve put together a little guide of some of our favourite BBQ food and wine pairings. So why not do a little sun dance, grab a glass of something lovely and get some inspiration for your next BBQ.
It’s only right that we start with what are considered to be the staples of any BBQ. I took a poll at Reserve HQ and have it on good authority (Sarah is married to an Aussie!) that you simply can’t have a BBQ without these going on it.
Top of pretty much everyone’s list in the office is the humble burger. Everyone has a preference on toppings and condiments – personally I’m all in on gherkins, cheap burger cheese, ketchup and sweet American mustard (if I’m feeling fancy maybe a few fried onions). One thing that is pretty high on my priority list though is sourcing good quality mince from your local butcher (most will usually have some ready made in store).
Ok so back to the wine pairing. People often reach for beer here, but actually grilled burgers and wine go perfectly together and are one of the best combos for a BBQ party The good thing about burgers is that they have high fat content. This helps to carry flavour as well as balance out the tannins in red wine, which means you can go pretty big and bold here. I like something that’s had some oak influence, and has plenty of fruit and good structure.
Avalon, Zinfandel 2016 £14.00 - from California really hits the spot. It’s packed with ripe plums and juicy blackberries, and it’s aged in a mixture of American and French oak. There’s a richness to it and smooth tannins, making this a real crowd pleaser and a great choice with burgers. Zinfandel’s Italian equivalent, Primitivo, will hit the spot nicely too, or a Grenache/Syrah/Mourvèdre blend from either the New World or the Rhone Valley.
Next on pretty much everybody’s BBQ essentials list is the mighty sausage. They come in all different forms and are made with all different meats and spices, so you need to keep your wits about you when choosing a wine pairing. The consensus here is that you can’t beat a proper pork sausage in a hotdog bun, and I’m inclined to agree. With this in mind I’d go for a white wine – Germans love bratwurst, so why not try a dry Riesling that has ripe fruit and great acidity? It will cut through the fat content, and it won’t be overwhelmed by the ketchup, mustard and bun that inevitably find their way on there!
Hanewald-Schwerdt, Riesling "Auf Der Pochel" Trocken 2019 £13.00 - This is a dry Riesling from Pfalz in Germany, packed full of citrus, ripe stone fruits, honeydew melons and a herbaceous edge with lively acidity. Alternatively, you could look at a Chardonnay from either Burgundy or perhaps Margaret River in Australia, which has those ripe fruits and racy acidity.
A good BBQ skewer is a popular choice with the Reserve team, with halloumi and peppers coming out on top. Halloumi has that lovely salinity, so something nice and dry like a Chenin Blanc from the Loire Valley, or a curveball like Assyrtiko from Greece where you have fantastic acidity and minerality, will both make for ideal wine pairings.
Diamantakis, Assyrtiko 2018 £14.00 – Diamantakis were founded in Crete back in 2007 just outside of Heraklion, a region with a rich history in vine growing. Think apples and lemon peel with a rich mouth feel, balanced by steely minerality and a zingy acidity.
Fancy BBQ Food
I’m sure many of you are far bigger connoisseurs of the BBQ than myself, so I’ve put together a few food and wine pairings for when you’re upping your game. Whether you’ve got a low and slow 14-hour beef brisket on the go, a tomahawk steak as big as your head, or some amazing fresh shellfish that’s going on, here are a few ideas to consider when picking your vino.
Slow cooked beef brisket
There are so many options to consider when considering what wine to drink with beef brisket. A big factor would be the seasoning – how spicy or sweet you’ve decided to take it will make a big difference. A great option would be something juicy and bright like Pinot Noir (not with the burnt ends though!). The lower tannins work well here due to how tender the meat is – after such a long cooking time everything is a little softer and the flavours better integrated.
Framingham, Marlborough Pinot Noir. 2018 £21.00 – This Kiwi Pinot would hit the spot nicely. There’s an abundance of ripe red cherries and plum compote with a smoky, savoury edge to go with the meat. Mencia from Galicia would be another great option!
With the current restrictions on UK shellfish exports to the EU, and many restaurants still unable to open fully, there’s quality and bargains to be had from your local fishmonger or via online specialists. With this in mind, you could take your BBQ to another level by getting a lobster and some fresh scallops, for a fancy twist on ‘throwing a shrimp on the barbie’.
The classic accompaniment for shellfish would be an infused butter such as garlic, parsley and lemon. This cries out for a Chardonnay that’s had a touch of oak. Lobster and scallops are a little meatier than other white fish, the butter adds even more richness, and the BBQ brings a unique smokiness, so you really need a wine that stands up to all that flavour. A Blanc de Blanc Champagne would also be a fantastic wine pairing for shellfish
Domaine la Zouina, 'Epicuria' Chardonnay 2018 £20.00 – This Moroccan Chardonnay is something a bit different but in a style that fans of bold, rich white wines would love. Produced by French winemakers with seven months of barrel ageing, there’s lots of ripe pear, vanilla and buttered toast.
Vegan BBQ Food
We’re firmly of the belief that vegetables are amazing on the BBQ. Why should you miss out because you don’t eat meat, when there are so many amazing vegan and vegetarian wines out there?
Our wine buyer and resident Frenchman Nic suggests BBQ aubergine. Put it straight on the coals to begin with to really char the skin all over before slicing open, lifting onto the grill skin-side down and seasoning with some garlic and herbs whilst it goes ultra soft and squidgy. Pinot Gris with its bright citrus fruit would work well with the smoky, garlicky flavours going on here. Alternatively a rosé that has some structure as well as good fruit could be an interesting match.
Niepoort, Redoma Rose 2018 (Vegan) £17.50 – This is a really high quality Portuguese rosé. Barrel-fermented and from old vines, it has amazing bright fresh fruit accompanied by the structure and complexity you’d associate more with a red wine. It’s a different perspective on rosé, and one that works great with bold flavours in food.
Only recently have I been converted to the joys of tofu. Having previously dismissed it as flavourless and ‘a bit weird’, I’ve now realised that it’s an amazing vehicle for flavour, taking on whatever you decide to season it with (honey, soy and ginger is a current favourite in our meal rotation at home, and a pairing for another day perhaps). For the BBQ, a classic Kansas-style, sticky, sweet BBQ marinade would be perfect, served on a bun or with a fresh salad. That BBQ sauce calls for something that’s got plenty of fruit and acidity, and tannins that aren’t too harsh. Cabernet Franc, either from the Loire Valley or South Africa, springs to mind here, or a perhaps a Chilean Carménère if your sauce has a little spice.
Waterkloof, Circumstance, Cabernet Franc. 2017 (Vegan) £16.50 – Waterkloof are a South African winery that have a natural approach to winemaking. They farm according to biodynamic and organic methods across their estate, where they create single variety, terroir-driven wines that really stand out. The Cab Franc has great red fruit and a woody, pencil-shaving profile. It’s elegant with almost weightless tannins that would balance well with the sticky, slightly sweet BBQ sauce.
We’d love to see how you get on - tag us in your BBQ wine pictures @reservewines! Got any questions about food and wine pairings? Get in touch.