Pairing food and wine can seem intimidating for the unfamiliar. In reality, learning how to create pairings that work well is both fun and relatively forgiving, and you don’t have to be a wine expert to get great results. Here are just 10 of our favorite wine and food pairings for the summer, all of which are approachable and worth experimenting with at home.
1. Albariño and Raw Oysters
Thanks to improved aquaculture practices, the days in which people were advised to avoid eating raw oysters during months lacking the letter “R” are over. You’ll have a hard time finding a better wine to pair with raw oysters than Albariño, a white grape grown in Northwest Spain. Hailing from Galicia, Albariño is salty, effervescent and everything a summer wine should be. Oysters are a preferred pairing, but anything from the raw bar will match splendidly with this lively Spanish varietal.
2. Chardonnay and Grilled Shrimp Skewers
Summer is the perfect time of year to break out the grill, and few proteins match-up with fire quite as well as shrimp. The deep char of perfectly grilled shrimp skewers needs something lush and rich to offset its sharpness, and no wine can do that better than chardonnay. Choose a California chardonnay with firm oaky characteristics and don’t forget to finish the shrimp with a dash of lime juice to really set this pairing off.
3. Rioja and Burgers
Spanish Rioja is praised by wine lovers the world over for its deep fruit flavors and solid tannic structure. What better characteristics in a wine for pairing with burgers? Rioja features a good deal of acidity, which will pair nicely with any burger stacked with tomatoes and ketchup. Its herbal nature will also play well with the richness of the burger. For added effect, top the burger with a balsamic reduction and watch as the wine pops.
4. Grillo and Swordfish
Grillo is one of the best kept secrets in Sicily. The little-known, yet thoroughly delicious white grape is characterized by lush and creamy mango flavors that practically beg for grilled fish. Swordfish, with its firm texture and unctuous, buttery flesh pairs beautifully with grillo. Serve it with a mango salsa to bring out the wine’s mango qualities even more.
5. Grüner Veltliner and Summer Vegetables
Commonly sold in 1L bottles, Grüner Veltliner is a summer hit that drinks way too easily for its own good. It’s also bright, zippy and slightly effervescent, making it the perfect wine to pair with a salad of summer vegetables. Raw, grilled, steamed or otherwise, the Grüner will do an excellent job picking up the nuances of fresh summer produce, and you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better light beginning to a meal.
6. Frappato and Grilled Chicken
Grilled chicken is a summer staple if there ever was one, and for good reason—it can be delicious when cooked to perfection. That charred, fatty skin looks for a wine that can adequately provide counterbalance, which is why many wine experts reach for chilled reds rather than richer wines like Cabernet Sauvignon. Frappato—another heavily overlooked Sicilian wine—is rich in minerality, carrying with it flavors of fresh strawberries and muddled basil. Serve it slightly chilled alongside a platter of well-charred chicken and see for yourself.
7. Carménère and Steak
Summer and steak go hand-in-hand, and finding the perfect beverage pairing can play a huge role in how enjoyable the meal is. There are plenty of wines that pair well with steak, but few are quite as effective as Carménère. A Chilean red, Carménère is rich with flavors of violets and red cherries, allowing it to play perfectly off of a juicy, meaty steak. Reduce the wine into a sauce, and you’ll have one of the most harmonious wine and food pairings imaginable on your hands.
8. Lambrusco and Bratwurst
Many people associated rosé with the coming of summer, keeping a bottle or two in the fridge at all times the moment the warm weather hits. While rosé can be an epiphany on a hot summer day, so too can Lambrusco, a lesser-known sparkling red wine from Italy. Loaded with fruit and acidity, Lambrusco can be paired with practically anything to great effect, but it especially loves the richness of a grilled bratwurst. Serve with a side of kraut for a great mid-summer sunset meal.
9. Pinot Grigio and Lobster
Few proteins are quite as luxurious in both texture and flavor as lobster, and there are a number of different ways to approach pairing it with wine. This being said, most people will do well to choose a wine with racy acidity to pair with the rich, buttery lobster on the table, and there is perhaps no better option than pinot grigio. With flavors of wine and zesty tropical fruit, a glass of pinot grigio is all you need to bring out the flavors of grilled or boiled lobster.
10. Rosé and Grilled Pizza
Back to rosé, one of the best summer options no matter what you’re cooking. Its fresh, flowery nuances make it an excellent wine for pairing with anything rich with tomato sauce, and what better summer dish than a grilled pizza? Feel free to get creative with the toppings—just make sure there’s enough rosé left in the fridge to get you through dinner!
So don’t feel as if you have to be a sommelier in order to choose wine and food pairings that will actually work this summer. Take the above list and don’t hesitate to expand upon it, remembering that experimentation is the only way to learn more about which pairings work and which do not. Get cooking, pour some wine and have fun!
By: Erik Neilson