December 7, 2023

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

Perfectly Pairing Wine with Barbecue: A Guide

Ready to up your BBQ and wine pairing game? Our guide simplifies wine pairing for grilled meat dishes like chicken, steak, turkey, and fish. Discover tips, regional specialties, and serving methods to make your cookout shine. Grab the perfect bottle, and let’s get grilling – the best BBQ and wine combos await!

Wine Pairings by Meat

Pairing wine with meat enhances flavor. Look for high acidity, dry wines for BBQ. Mix and match for unique tastes.

1. Chicken: Pair with reds like Malbec, Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, or whites such as Albario and Chardonnay.

2. Pulled Pork: Choose reds with fruity acidity like Zinfandel. Grenache or GSM Blend for a twist.

3. Brisket: Opt for bold reds like Zinfandel or bold Rosé.

4. Hamburgers: Pair with Cabernet Sauvignon or Syrah. Grenache or Malbec for variety.

5. Steaks: Match with Chardonnay, Riesling, or reds like Zinfandel and Cabernet-blend.

6. Fish: Light-bodied whites like Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, or Pinot Grigio.

7. Ribs: Use Zinfandel or Merlot for BBQ ribs. Pinot Noir or Barbera for a milder option.

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 chops, 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, smoked meat, 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 white 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, or grilled pork, 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 good 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 pairing BBQ with wine, aim for harmony in flavors. Match red meat with red wine and a complementary sauce. Try Zinfandel, Merlot, or Syrah for 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 of plastic cups, 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 any outdoor cooking or 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 smoked foods at 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 a wine enthusiast and 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.


Elevating your BBQ experience with perfect wine pairings is all about savoring the flavors. Keeping it simple, ensuring the wines are appropriately chilled, cleansing your palate between bites, letting the wines breathe, and skipping the solo cups are essential steps. Don’t be afraid to experiment and let your guests choose their pairings, creating unforgettable barbecue moments with friends and family.

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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