‘Tis the season.

By Betty Gold
Updated June 29, 2020
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Picking wines that complement all of the tangy, salty, and sweet flavors of our favorite grilled foods can be a challenge. So many different types of palates to please! But before you throw in the towel and settle for a case of Bud Light and a few bottles of pinot grigio, we’re here to eliminate all of that intimidation. Seriously, you’ll be pairing burgers with Beaujolais like a sommelier just in time for the Fourth.

To get the scoop on the best way to bring your barbecue fare to life with wine, we consulted the experts at Vivino, the world’s largest online wine marketplace. Their vino pros helped us round up these recommendations for the top varietals for every type of grill fare. Whether you’re cooking pulled pork or tofu, we have something here that'll sizzle harmoniously.

Burgers are summer grilling staples, so it's only fitting that they pair with the number one summer barbecue wine: Beaujolais. Light, fresh, and fun, Beaujolais is extremely food-friendly. Expect peppy red cherry and strawberry flavors with a touch of earthy undertones.

The toppings make the hot dog, so the key is to find a wine versatile enough to pair with anything you can eat on a dog. It's hard to go wrong with a dry rosé, but look for one with some character to it: minerality, acidity, or unique, savory flavors.

Sweet, salty, buttery grilled corn needs a wine that will accent—but not overwhelm—its flavors, which is why Chardonnay aged in steel or old oak is a natural match. Most unoaked Chardonnays still go through malolactic fermentation, which creates a creamy, buttery texture without oaky flavors of vanilla and baking spice (that would overwhelm the corn).

Embrace the essence of grilled seafood with a salty, zesty Sicilian white. Sicilian white wines, particularly those grown on the slopes of Mount Etna, have distinct volcanic minerality, lemon acidity, and a touch of salinity, which makes for an ocean-reminiscent flavor.

Vegetarians need barbecue options too, and creatively prepared tofu can be an excellent substitute for otherwise meat-heavy festivities. The bubbles in Champagne provide a nice contrast to the texture of tofu, while tart citrus flavors and focused acidity make it perfect for pairing with almost any flavor profile.

Pork chops pair well with both red and white wine, but with a dry rub on the grill, red wine has the edge. Medium-bodied Pinot Noir from the Willamette Valley in Oregon has a little bit of everything that pork chops call for, flavor-wise, melding lush New World cherry cola-esque fruit with Old World earthiness.

For a wine to stand up to North Carolina-style pulled pork's vinegar-based sauce, two things are crucial: sugar and acid. Off-dry Riesling is the answer, with mouthwatering acidity and just a touch of residual sugar to keep the wine from seeming too austere.

Slightly sweeter than the North Carolina-style, smoky, spiced Memphis-style pulled pork calls for a wine with juicy, round fruit, like a classic California Zinfandel. While Zinfandel can be overly jammy and high-alcohol, the best examples balance body with acidity, allowing fresh red and blackberry fruit to burst onto the palate and complement the pork.

For a knock-out baby back rib pairing, embrace the flavors that make ribs so good with a wine that carries them. Full of smoke, meat, and black peppery goodness, Syrah from the northern Rhône is right on the money—as if someone took the smoked ribs themselves and put them into the wine.

Matching steak and Napa Cab is a no-brainer, but to take the pairing to a new level, look up the mountain. Vineyards situated within the mountain ranges that form the Napa Valley—such as Spring Mountain District or Chiles Valley—have the added benefit of elevation, creating a more restrained and elegant style of wine.