May 15, 2023

Barbecue And Wine: How To Find The Perfect Pairing For Your Next Backyard Bash

Perfectly Pairing Wine with Barbecue: A Guide

Are you ready to step up your BBQ and wine pairing game? Good news: you don’t have to be a sommelier or pitmaster to know the best wines for BBQ. This guide will walk you through pairing wine with some of the most popular grilled and smoked foods, from chicken to steak smoked turkey to fish.

We’ll cover general tips and regional specialties, plus adaptable serving and pairing techniques so your next cookout is the talk of the season. So forget the solo cups, grab the perfect bottle, and get grilling because the best BBQ and vino pairs are just waiting to be discovered!

Short Summary

  • Pairing wine with BBQ is a great way to explore different flavors.

  • Match red meat with a red wine and sauce that complements the wine.

  • Have fun and provide a variety of wines for your guests to choose from!

General Tips

Pairing wine with barbecue

Pairing wine with barbecue can take your meal to the next level! It’s a great way to add a touch of sophistication and really bring out the flavors of the food. When it comes to pairing wine with barbecue, reds are usually the way to go. The umami and fat content in the grilled meats will balance out the tannin in the red wine. Rosé and sparkling wines are great options for pairing with grilled and smoked meat dishes.

It’s important to cleanse your palate between bites of barbecue and sips of wine so you can really savor the flavors of both. When you’re pairing wine with barbecue, it’s important to keep it simple. Try to stick to one or two wines that will work well with the meat you’re serving. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can experiment with different types of wines to find the perfect pairing.

Make sure to cleanse your palate with a sip of water or a bite of bread between bites of barbecue and sips of your favorite wine too. And don’t forget to chill your wines to the recommended temperature before serving them. Last but not least, don’t forget to let your guests drive the wine bus – it’s always fun to experiment with different wines and find the perfect pairings together!

Wine Pairings by Meat

When you pair wine with meat, you’re unlocking a whole new level of flavor. It can take your meal to the next level and make it a truly enjoyable experience.

When it comes to BBQ-wine pairing, you want to look for wines with high acidity and a dry finish that’ll give your taste buds a tingly sensation. You can also mix and match different wines with your favorite meats, allowing you to explore different flavor combinations and create a truly unique experience.

1. Chicken

If you’re looking to pair wine with BBQ chicken, you’ve come to the right place! Red wines like Malbec, Shiraz, Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, Grenache blends, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc are all great options for pairing with BBQ and grilled chicken here.

For white wines, Albario, Verdejo, and light-bodied reds are all great options. If you want something with a bit more of a kick, try a Chardonnay to really bring out the smokeiness of the barbecue.

Sparkling wines also make a great accompaniment to grilled or smoked chicken. Lastly, if you’re looking for something a little different, try a Rosé – it has zesty acidity that pairs well with grilled or smoked foods.

2. Pulled Pork

Pulled pork is a classic BBQ dish made by slow-smoking pork shoulder with a variety of seasonings, such as brown sugar, salt, pepper, and cayenne or red pepper flakes. When it comes to wine pairing, you want to look for a red with a nice balance of fruity and acidic notes. The acidity will help cut through the fat in the pulled pork, while the fruitiness will bring out the delicious smokiness.

Skin-contact wines are also a great option, as the tannins in these wines bring out the smokeiness of the BBQ and the acidity helps cut through the fat. To really bring out the flavors of your pulled pork, try matching it with a bold and full-bodied red like Zinfandel or Cabernet Sauvignon. These wines will enhance the smokeiness, saltiness, and richness of the pulled pork, making it an even more delicious experience.

If you want something a bit different, try a Grenache or GSM Blend (Grenache-Syrah-Mourvèdre). The juicy fruitiness of these wines will make your pulled pork shine!

3. Brisket

The goal is to pick a wine that enhances the smokeiness, saltiness, and richness of the smoked brisket. A bold and full-flavored red would be the ideal accompaniment to that succulent brisket. Zinfandel is a great option for boldly-spiced smoked beef brisket.

If you’re looking for something different than a traditional bold red to pair with your smoked brisket, a bold Rosé is a great alternative. Texans love to barbecue beef brisket, and depending on which part of the state you’re in, you’ll find different types of sauces.

East Texas is renowned for its sweet tomato-based sauce. In contrast, central Texas is all about the dry rub. Meanwhile, south Texas prefers a sweet molasses base, and west Texas prefers direct heat for the cooking process, such as grilling.

4. Hamburgers

When it comes to pairing wines with a classic hamburger, you can’t go wrong with a classic Cabernet Sauvignon or Syrah. For something a bit different, try a Grenache or GSM blend.

Pinot Noir, Malbec, Bordeaux blends, Châteauneuf-du-Pape, and Australian Shiraz are also great options for pairing with your juicy burgers.

If you’re looking for a full-bodied flavor to pair with your grilled burgers or steak, you can’t go wrong with Tempranillo, Cabernet-blend, Sangiovese, or a GSM Blend (Grenache-Syrah-Mourvèdre). These are all sure to make your backyard barbecue even more delicious!

5. Steaks

If you’re looking for the perfect wine to go with your steak, Chardonnay and Riesling are both great options. For something a bit heartier, try a red with moderate tannins and plenty of fruity notes, like Zinfandel, Merlot, or Syrah. These wines pair wonderfully with grilled steaks and will bring out the smoky flavors of the meat.

You can also opt for a full-bodied red like Cabernet-blend, Sangiovese, or a GSM Blend (Grenache-Syrah-Mourvèdre) for a truly decadent flavor experience.

When it comes to white wines, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay, Gruner Veltliner, and Alvarinho are all great choices that pair nicely with various smoked and grilled meats. All of these wines will bring out the smoky, juicy flavors of your steak, creating a perfect balance of flavor.

6. Fish

Wild caught salmon, snapper, and swordfish steaks are all great options when it comes to grilling up some delicious fish. To make sure it’s a truly tasty experience, you’ll want to pair it with the perfect wine. A light-bodied white wine that won’t overpower the delicate flavors and seasonings of the fish is the ideal pairing.

If you’re looking for something a bit more exciting, Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay, Gruner Veltliner, and Alvarinho are all great choices. These wines will bring out the subtle, sweet notes of the fish without overwhelming the other flavors on your plate.

7. Ribs

A red with moderate tannins and plenty of fruity notes, like Zinfandel, Merlot, or Syrah, would be a great accompaniment for those tasty ribs barbecued. The bold flavors of these wines will stand up to the smoky, savory flavors of the ribs while still providing a nice balance on the palate.

For a more subtle flavor, Pinot Noir or Barbera are also great options. These wines offer a light-bodied yet fruity flavor profile that won’t overpower the other flavors on the plate.

If you’re looking for something a bit more complex, Cabernet Sauvignon, Tempranillo, or Sangiovese can all be great choices as well. These wines will bring out the deep, smoky notes of the ribs without overpowering the other flavors.

Regional BBQ and Wine Pairings

Ah regional BBQ and wine pairings – they’re the perfect way to take your BBQ game to the next level! Basically, it’s a set of wine suggestions that go great with different regional barbecues. Regional BBQs each have their own distinctive flavor profiles, so it’s important to choose the right type of wine to bring out the best in the dish.

When pairing wine with BBQ, it’s important to consider the type of meat, the sauce, and the overall flavor profile of the dish. With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the different regional BBQs and the perfect wines to pair with them.

1. Kansas City BBQ

Kansas City BBQ is a style of barbecue that comes from the heart of Missouri. It’s famous for its slow-smoked meats like beef brisket, pork ribs, and burnt ends – all cooked to perfection. Kansas City-style barbecue sauce is something special! It’s usually ketchup-based, sticky, and sweet, with a hint of syrup or molasses. It’s the perfect accompaniment to any barbecue dish.

If you’re looking for the perfect wine to pair with Kansas City BBQ, you can’t go wrong with Zinfandel, Merlot, or Syrah. For a more complex flavor, try a fruity red like a Cabernet Franc or Cabernet Sauvignon. Delicious! These bold wines will stand up to the bold flavors of Kansas City BBQ, making them the perfect pairing.

2. North Carolina BBQ

North Carolina BBQ is all about that tangy, spicy vinegar-based sauce! Plus, the meat is cooked low and slow over hardwood coals, giving it that delicious smoky flavor. Pork and chicken are the most popular meats for North Carolina BBQ.

If you’re looking for the ideal wine to pair with North Carolina BBQ, reds with bright berry notes, moderate tannins, and a good amount of acidity like zinfandel, merlot, or Syrah/Shiraz are great choices. For pork BBQ, you can’t go wrong with Pinot Noir. And if you’re grilling up some simply seasoned chicken or pork, you can pair it with a nice Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc.

As far as the sauces go, North Carolina-style BBQ sauce is made with vinegar, sugar, and spices. It’s super flavorful and adds a nice kick to any dish. When it comes to pairing wine with North Carolina-style BBQ sauce, you can’t go wrong with a full-bodied pinot noir. It’s silky and soft-finishing, making it a great match for the smoky flavor of the BBQ sauce.

3. South Carolina BBQ

South Carolina BBQ stands out from the rest because it uses a mustard-based sauce instead of the more common tomato or vinegar-based sauces. Plus, it’s known for its use of whole hogs and slow-cooking methods, making it truly unique. It’s a delicious combo of sweet, tangy, and mustardy flavors! The sauce is made with apple cider vinegar, mustard, brown sugar, and honey – yum!

South Carolina BBQ isn’t just about the mustard-based sauce – it also uses a vinegar and pepper-based sauce. When it comes to South Carolina BBQ, there are no specific wines that are popularly paired with it. However, some great options for pairing with barbecue in general include fruity reds like zinfandel, grenache, or barbera, or smoky ones like Rhône blends. For North Carolina-style BBQ, Petit Sirah, Pinotage, and/or Zinfandel are all great pairing choices.

4. Texas BBQ

Texas style BBQ is a unique and delicious barbecue experience. It’s known for its big, bold flavors and classic cooking techniques. The meat of choice in Texas-style BBQ is usually beef, and the traditional BBQ sauce is a sweet-and-smoky tomato-based sauce.

To really bring out the flavors in this type of BBQ, a full-bodied dry and bold red like a syrah is the perfect match. This type of wine has the structure and tannins to stand up to the bold flavors of Texas-style BBQ. It also has hints of berry and spice that help to bring out the sweetness of the sauce and the smokeiness of the meat.

5. Alabama BBQ

Alabama BBQ stands out thanks to its signature white sauce, a delicious blend of mayo, vinegar, and spices. It’s usually served on chicken and pork, or beef ribs, and the meat is smoked over hickory wood for a smoky and slightly sweet flavor.

If you’re looking for the perfect wine to pair with Alabama barbecue, you can’t go wrong with a full-bodied red like Cabernet Sauvignon or Zinfandel. These wines have the structure and tannins to stand up to the flavor of the white sauce, as well as the smokeiness of the hickory wood. Plus, they have hints of berry and spice that help to bring out the sweetness of the sauce.

So, if you’re looking for the perfect pairing for your next backyard barbecue, try Cabernet Sauvignon or Zinfandel with your Alabama BBQ. Delicious!

Serving and Pairing Tips

Knowing the right serving and pairing tips can take your wine and barbecue experience to the next level! It can help bring out the best flavors in both the wine and the food, making for a truly delicious and enjoyable meal. If you’re looking for the perfect wine to pair with your barbecue, you can’t go wrong with Chardonnay, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Old Vine Zinfandel, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Riesling, Moscato, Malbec, Gamay, dry rosé, or even a sparkling wine like Prosecco or Champagne.

When it comes to pairing wine with barbecue, keeping it simple means going for a bottle that you like and that complements the flavors of the barbecue. Don’t stress about getting the fanciest bottle – just pick something that you enjoy! It’s a great idea to give your taste buds a break between sips or bites of wine and BBQ. This helps you really enjoy the flavors of both. A simple sip of water, a bite of bread, or a cracker can do the trick!

Chilling out simply means serving the wine at the right temperature. White wines and rosés should be served nice and cold, while red wines should be served slightly cooler than room temperature. Swapping out the solo cups for proper wine glasses can really take your barbecue and wine pairing to the next level! Not only will it make the experience more enjoyable, but it can also help to bring out the best in the wine’s taste and aroma.

Ah, letting the wine breathe is essentially giving it some time to hang out with the air before you take a sip. This helps to mellow out the tannins and bring out the flavors of the wine. No need to overthink it! Wine pairings are all about exploring and having fun. So don’t worry about finding the “ideal” combo and just enjoy the wine and the barbecue.

1. Keep It Simple

When you pair wine with BBQ, you want to be able to enjoy the flavors of both the meat and the wine without them competing with each other. Keeping it simple ensures that you can do just that! The meat-sauce-wine maxim is all about finding the perfect pairing. It’s a rule of thumb that suggests matching red meat with a red wine and a sauce that complements the wine.

Zinfandel, Merlot, or Syrah would be great choices for pairing with barbecue-grilled meats. They all have the right flavor profiles to really bring out the best in your grilled meats.

2. Cleanse Your Palate

It’s essential to give your taste buds a break between sips of wine and bites of barbecue, so you can really appreciate the individual flavors of each. Cleansing your palate helps to reset your taste buds and ensure that the flavors don’t blend together, allowing you to enjoy the full experience of both the wine and the grilled food together.

If you’re looking for a way to cleanse your palate when pairing wine with barbecue, you’ll want to opt for a wine with high acidity, like Pinot Noir. Taking a few sips of water in between wine sips can also help to reset your taste buds. Opting for a light and refreshing beer is another great way to cleanse your palate and enjoy a delicious beverage in between bites of barbecue.

3. Chill Out

The temperature of wine can make a huge difference in how it tastes and smells, so it’s important to get it just right for the best experience! Red wine should be served at a cozy room temperature of between 60-65°F for the best flavor. This is the ideal temperature for serving red wine. For most white wines, it’s best to serve them slightly cooler than room temperature – around 49-55°F. That way, you’ll get the most out of their flavor!

You can easily cool down your vino by popping it in the fridge, throwing it in an ice bucket, or adding a few ice cubes. Offering guests ice cubes made from wine is a BBQ wine pairing step that’s above the rest. It’s a fun and unique way to keep your wine chilled and make the experience more enjoyable.

4. Skip the Solo Cups

Well, the heat from your hand can warm the wine up too much, changing the way it tastes and smells. Plus, the shape of a solo cup means you won’t be able to get the full flavor of the wine with each sip.

If you’re looking to enjoy a glass of vino al fresco, you’ll want to avoid using disposable cups. Instead, opt for outdoor wine glasses made from materials like acrylic or tritan that are shatterproof and perfect for outdoor sipping. They come in a variety of sizes and styles, so you can find something that suits the occasion.

5. Let the Wine Breathe

Ah letting wine breathe is all about giving it some airtime before you drink it. This helps to soften the tannins and really let the wine’s flavors and aromas come alive. Some of the tastiest wines to pair with BBQ that get even better with aeration are Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, red Bordeaux blends, and Barbera D’Asti.

Decanting is also a great idea for outdoor barbecues because it helps get rid of any sediment that may have built up in the bottle. When it comes to letting wine breathe while pairing it with barbecue, you can pour it into a glass and let it sit for a bit, give it a swirl, or even pour it into a decanter. Red wines usually have more tannins than white wines, so they should be given a bit more time to breathe – around 20 to 30 minutes.

6. Don’t Sweat It

When it comes to finding the ideal wine to accompany your BBQ, “not sweating it” means you don’t need to put too much pressure on yourself to make the perfect choice. Whether it’s a hot day or a cool evening, there are a variety of wines that can pair perfectly with your meal.

If you’re looking for a great wine to go with your barbecue, you can’t go wrong with a classic red like Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, or Syrah. It’s also a good idea to experiment with different off-dry white wines, sparkling wines, and rosés to see what you like best.

Don’t be afraid to try something new or out of the ordinary when it comes to pairing wine with barbecue. Have a little fun with it and explore different flavors and combinations.

7. Let Your Guests Drive the Wine Bus

If you’re having a barbecue and want to offer up some delicious wines to pair with it, why not let your guests drive the wine bus? This way, you can provide a variety of options for them to choose from and ensure that everyone has something they’ll enjoy.

When selecting wines to offer, it’s important to consider your guests’ preferences and tastes. If you have guests who prefer white wines, try including some Rieslings, Sauvignon Blancs, and Pinot Grigios. If red wines are more popular, try including some Cabernet Sauvignons, Merlots, and Pinot Noirs. You can also include a few bottles of favorite bubbly, like Prosecco or Champagne, for a special touch.

By offering a variety of wines, you’ll be sure to please everyone and provide an enjoyable experience for all.


For an incredible food and wine experience, pairing the right wines with your BBQ can instantly elevate the flavor and overall experience for you and your guests. From North Carolina BBQ to Texas BBQ and everything in between, there are pairings for every region and every type of meat. You’re sure to discover a delicious combination that brings both the food and wine to life!

Don’t forget to keep it simple, chill out your wines, cleanse your palate in between bites, let your wines breathe and skip the solo cups, and of course never be afraid to experiment and explore different flavor combinations.

And don’t forget to let your guests pick their own pairings, so they can enjoy their unique favorites. So have fun with it and create an unforgettable wine and barbecue experience- your family and friends will thank you!

Frequently Asked Questions

What wine goes with barbecue?

A barbecue dinner calls for a robust red wine. Consider reaching for a bottle of aged Merlot, Syrah, or Zinfandel to match your favorite barbecue dish.

For lighter fare, pair a crisp Pinot Noir – it will never fail you! Enjoy a glass of wine while grilling and celebrating with friends.

Does red or white wine go with BBQ?

White wine is not the best pairing for grilled meats. Poultry and fish are better complemented by white wines, as they are usually lighter and less tannin-rich. Generally, the choice of red or white wine with BBQ depends on what type of meat you’re grilling. Red wines pair well with grilled meat, while white wines are a better complement to poultry and fish. So when it comes to BBQ, go ahead and grab a bottle of red!

What wine goes with BBQ pulled pork?

If you’re serving pulled pork at your next BBQ, reach for a fruity Pinot Noir to bring out the best of the meat’s flavor. Its light tannins and refreshing acidity make it the perfect companion to succulent pork, allowing the fatty richness of the meat to shine through while cutting through the fat.


What is the best white wine to pair with BBQ?

If you’re grilling, a crisp, dry white wine like Sauvignon Blanc or Riesling is the perfect accompaniment to fresh off-the-grill flavors. For added flavor, try opting for those that come from an oak barrel or have some residual sweetness.


About the author 

Karina Kahale

I was born and raised in Honolulu, Hawaii. After years of travel, exploration, and education, I founded Underground Wine Merchants in 2019.

Currently, I work as a sommelier at a fine dining restaurant here in Hawaii. I pursued my education at the prestigious ICE Sommelier Institute in Los Angeles, which has equipped me with the knowledge and skills to excel in my profession.

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