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Fired Up About Great Wines for Grilling

Grilled Salmon and Lemons with HerbsGrilling, whether it’s with charcoal or gas, imparts an abundance of flame-kissed flavor and character to meat and veggies. From the sweet-smoky caramelization of grilled onions and lathered-on piquant sauces to the bold, peppery crunch of a nicely-charred cut, a range of flavors emerges. Many wines pair beautifully with grilled fare – sweet-leaning rieslings and big bold Reds; dry, cool Whites and round, spicy pinot noirs. Read on for wine-pairing guidance for grilled food.

Chilled Whites, Hot Pairings

Buttery chardonnays, light-bodied sauvignon blancs and friendly, fruity rieslings will take your just-grilled chicken, seafood and veggies down a flavorful path bursting with contrast and complexity.

The crisp lime, subtle spicy endnotes and lingering finish of Robert Mondavi’s Fumé Blanc pair beautifully with the firm, subtly salty richness of a well-grilled swordfish steak.

The buttery, bold flavors of grilled salmon, a rockstar summertime favorite, pairs nicely with a subtly oaked, sleek and slighty citrusy Vinum Cellars Chardonnay.

Chilled Cupcake Vineyards Riesling, with its slight sweetness and silky honeydew finish, responds perfectly to the sweet, piquant notes in Grilled Balsamic Chicken with Peaches.

If you’re laying out a cheese plate poolside before the main course, look for creamy to semi-firm goat cheeses for the fumé blanc and the riesling. The chardonnay’s richness brings out all the custardy, mushroomy complexity of triple-crème brie.

Reds with the Best Grillside Manner

They aren’t served chilled (although you might put your pinot noir in the fridge for a few minutes before serving), but Reds are can’t-miss summer hits for the delightful way they pair with the grill’s best offerings.

Seaglass Santa Barbara Pinot Noir, spicy with amazingly vibrant red fruit flavors stands up perfectly to the bold notes of a citrus-marinated grilled salmon salad.

Evocative earthiness, ripe red berries and deep harmonious tannins found in the Herdade Do Esporão Monte Velho Red bring out surprisingly complex and intense flavors in quickly-grilled flank steak.

So luscious, rich and velvety, Chateau Grand Claret Côtes de Bordeaux almost becomes the main course when paired with a simple grilled eggplant and tomato salad.

If Spain makes one wine for firing up the grill, it’s Lamatum Ribera del Duero Crianza. This wine’s mellow vanilla richness, abundant sweet red fruits and overall approachability make it a perfect pair for steaks, sweet-hot BBQ or beef short ribs.

A summer cheese plate for these Reds should include luscious bries for the pinot noir, firmer gouda-style cheeses for the Chateau Grand Claret, goat cheeses for the Monte Velho and a nice Spanish manchego for the Lamatum.

Cool Whites, luscious Reds and a hot grill: your main ingredients for a sizzlingly satisfying summer. Any wine-meets-grill pairing adventures you’d like to share? We’d love to hear them!

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dan says …

Does the shape of the grilling surface matter when grilling? I bought a traditional looking charcoal grill and was not happy when I brought it home and looked at the grilling surface. The metal grate was thin wire in a checkered pattern. The squares were about an inch wide. Should I take it back or will it not make that much of a difference? Dan

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@DAN - It really depends on what you plan on grilling. A checkered pattern would be beneficial if you plan to grill veggies as they would be less likely to fall in to the charcoal. The only other thing to think about would be that the items might take a tiny bit longer to grill since there is more substance between the food and the fire, but this should not be a major issue. Lastly, I would suggest keeping the checkered grill if you are going more for presentation as this will leave a criss-cross pattern on the food as you would see in commercials:) Maybe it's possible to call the store where you purchased the grill and the grill manufacturer might also make a parallel lined surface that you could swap it out for. Hope this helps!

Rona says …

Thanks. .. Grilling fish tonight and this was very helpful. .. I'm such a novice. ....I'll buy the wine first and than pair it with the fish or should I do it the other way around?

Sari Staggs says …

Thank you so much. I am just at the beginning of my wine education and need the kind of help you show here. I shop at Whole Foods MArket often so your mention of the wines they sell is very useful.

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@RONA - I would say it's totally up to you! If you are wanting to explore a new type of fish, start with the fist first then ask a team member in our wine department for a recommendation. I typically start with my protein first, then get a wine to compliment the protein since there are more wine options. It can totally work either way though!