Though many Bay Area residents are accustomed to waiting until October for good grilling weather, we’ve actually experienced summer this year—in summer—evidenced chiefly by the amount of grilling going on. While beer is the go-to drink for most backyard barbecues, wine offers a great deal more range in terms of flavor profiles, especially given many home cooks’ tendencies to stray from the barbecue styles of old. Make no mistake: Burgers and ribs are still staples, and they probably always will be, but even the average chief-griller in California strays outside these bounds, looking to Asian and Mediterranean cuisines as often as standard fare.
When you order grilled foods at restaurants, the wine list takes a bit of the guesswork out of what fermented grape juice might go with your dish. Sommeliers often work with the spice profiles of each recipe to make recommendations based on predominant flavors, or on the lightness or heaviness of the preparation. But what to serve when you’re grilling in your own backyard?
Here are 10 affordable recommendations, based on the flavors of what you’re serving, rather than the type of protein or vegetable.
Classic dishes in the U.S., such as burgers, ribs, and chicken, have traditionally been paired with big reds, if not beer. But there are many more creative wine choices that work well, especially in summer, when you don’t necessarily want to be sipping a Napa Cab in 85-degree heat. A recent discovery for me, and my top choice for burgers, is the 2013 Vylyan Villanyi Portugieser “Macksa” ($14.50 at Vintage Berkeley), a Hungarian red that is one note, but a solid, not-too-ripe one. Designed to be drunk young and fresh, it has a slight green-spiciness that saves it from being overwhelmed by big meat. Though it’s counterintuitive, serve it slightly chilled.