With summer here it’s time to break out the grill and uncork some special wines! Here are recommendations for four kinds of pairings that are sure to please.
Light seasonal foods If you are going for lighter fare, stick with something crisp and refreshing such as a rosé, a Pinot gris (aka Pinot grigio), a Sauvignon blanc or a Viognier. These pair well with dishes like grilled chicken or seafood. If you prefer red wines, grilled vegetables or pork make great pairings with lighter, less tannic reds such as Pinot noirs or Spanish Tempranillos.
2011 Stepping Stone by Cornerstone “Corallina” Napa Valley Syrah Rosé ($20) — a dry rosé with lots of strawberry and citrus flavors. Pairs well with grilled chicken, salmon or traditional picnic fare.
2009 Seufert Winery “Vine Idyl Vineyard” Willamette Valley Pinot Noir ($30) — a light but earthy, fruity wine with loads of character. Grilled portobellos make a perfect match.
Barbecued meats Smoky meat dishes go best with heavier or spicier styled wines. Try a Gewürztraminer, Riesling or Chardonnay with barbecued chicken — or a Syrah, Meritage (a Bordeaux-styled wine), Cabernet Sauvignon or Zinfandel with barbecued pork or lamb.
2010 AntoLin Cellars Yakima Valley Washington Riesling ($14) — good acidity with flavors of melon, peaches and honey. Spiced chicken would knock this pairing out of the park!
2008 Dry Creek Vineyards “The Mariner” Dry Creek Valley Meritage ($40) — a full-bodied blend of black fruits, vanilla and spice. This steals the show at any barbecue.
Hamburgers and pizza The key to selecting the right wine for hamburgers or pizza is to think about the condiments or sauce. As for cheeseburgers with onions, an Italian Primitivo (a southern Italian version of California’s Zinfandel) works well. If you like a lot of ketchup, stick with a fruity or sweet wine to complement the ketchup. If you like bacon or mushrooms on your burger, try an Australian Shiraz or a Malbec. As for pizza, try a Barbera, Cabernet franc or Chianti with red sauce and meat. For you pesto lovers, a red Primitivo or a white such as Sauvignon blanc or Pinot gris are great. If you prefer a pizza with white sauce, go with a Pinot noir, Zinfandel or Chardonnay. And if you’re uncertain what wine might go best, stick with Chianti — you can’t go wrong!
2009 Septima Mendoza Argentina Malbec ($11) — a good value Malbec with flavors of cherry and raspberry that’s jammy and smoky, which makes it a perfect accompaniment to smoked meats.
2009 Smith-Madrone Napa Valley California Chardonnay ($30) — lots of apple, pear and citrus notes, leading to a good dose of minerality. Pair it with a chicken and white sauce pizza for a match made in heaven.
2008 Marchesi de Frescobaldi Castello di Nipozzano Rufina Riserva Chianti ($23) — aromas of ripe cherry and a hint of black pepper with nuances of fresh coffee beans and cocoa. It will make a good match with almost any pizza.
Cheese & fruit With the vast selection of cheese and wine styles, there are many factors to consider. If you want to look like a pro and impress your friends, simply choose regional matches. For example, Chianti will always pair well with the cheeses from that region — Romano, Parmesan and Fontina. The other option is to match the weight of the wine with the weight of the cheese (e.g., Port with blue cheese) or to contrast the flavors and textures (e.g., a sweet dessert wine like Sauternes with blue cheese). As for fruit, you can’t go wrong with a Moscato d’Asti or Muscat d’Orange, perfect summertime dessert wines that pair well with fruit.
Fattoria San Giuliano Piedmont Italy Moscato d’Asti ($22) — fresh and clean with honeydew and melon flavors. Its slight sweetness would make a great pairing with fruit.
There you have a few food and wine pairing ideas to get you started. And remember, there are no hard rules to pairing — the only thing that matters is what you enjoy. So grab a glass and find a new favorite. Salute!