Pairing wine: Tips for the summer grill season
You have a lot of time to think while you’re power washing the back patio.
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HOT DOGS: Alone in a bun, there generally isn’t much flavor. That’s why the frankfurter is typically embellished with a variety of condiments. It’s the toppings that make the difference.
- The New York-style incorporates mustard and sauerkraut. Considering the spicy tartness, a fruity dry rose would pair well.
- In Chicago, sport peppers, pickles and celery salt are a must, along with a poppy seed bun. Ketchup is avoided. With the salty profile, a Sauvignon Blanc or a locally produced Seyval Blanc or dry Riesling is in order. The grassy, minerality of these wines can balance nicely with the brined veggies.
- When it comes to a chili dog topped with cheese and onions, think big and bold fruit flavors. I would suggest a California Zinfandel or Australian Shiraz. Noiret is a great alternative that can be found at Midwest wineries.
- For the ketchup purist, try an inexpensive California Pinot Noir or a Baco Noir from the Great Lakes region.
BURGERS: A staple of summer grilling. They are typically beef, but can be made from lamb, salmon or turkey or be vegetarian.
- Medium-bodied reds like a Merlot, Cabernet Franc or Syrah work well with beef, whether topped with cheese or not. These varietal grape wines can be found at many area wineries. Several weeks ago, I was impressed how a Petit Pearl wine brought back from Iowa paired with my grilled burger.
- Consider an Oregon Pinot Noir or Marquette from our region when pairing with a lamb or turkey. The wines made from the Marquette grape have been referred to as the Midwest’s (red) Burgundy.
- If white wine is your preference, a Viognier or an Indiana/Michigan Traminette would go well with the turkey or vegetarian version. Try your salmon pattie with a lightly oaked Chardonnay. The butter and smoky profile can complement the strong fish taste nicely.
BRATS: Midwesterners love ’em. While there are many variations, bratwurst is commonly composed of pork seasoned with herbs and spices. Therefore, I go for complex and bold flavors.
- One of my go-to favorites are the red wines from Monstat, Spain. They generally are blends that feature Garnacha (Grenache to the rest of the world) with Syrah and Tempranillo.
- The neighboring Priorat region produces similar reds which are more concentrated and slightly less fruit forward on the palate. Wines from this region are also much more costly compared to Montstat.
- A semi dry Riesling (1.5 percent to 2 percent residual sugar) would be a terrific white wine alternative with traditional bratwurst. Jawohl, bitte!
When it comes to pairing wine with food, there are few hard and fast rules. I have often heard it said, “if you like it and it tastes good, then go for it.” Don’t let anyone convince you otherwise.
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I simply share some of my experiences and thoughts on pairing wine. You are invited to share your ideas on summer grilling and wine in the comment section below. I would be most interested in the pairings you have discovered.