Slideshow: Ask a Sommelier: Wine Advice for Grilling

Match Your Prep and Wine
Match Your Prep and Wine
"Whenever I cook, I look for one of the main flavors in my preparation to be part of the basic profile of the wine. If we do a rosemary-lemon marinade on grilled chicken, the wine for me will be an elegant medium body Portuguese white, like Esporao from Alentejao, or a Vermentino from Italy. On the other hand with cajun rub, I’ll do rosé. When grilling steaks, these days I go with Rosso de Montalcino or a red from Jura, France. It’s just what the doctor ordered."—Gerardo Acevedo-Vanni, Bocanova (Oakland, CA)
Go Juicy
Go Juicy
"Skip cellar treasures and think about fruit-forward, juicy wines. They don’t have to be super-cheap or totally simplistic, but go for tail-wagging exuberance over nuance or subtlety, which get lost with charred food anyway. Off-dry Riesling with grilled asparagus? A plush rosé for barbecue-sauced pork chops? A spicy southern Rhone red with a hunk of crispy-edged red meat? Yes, please."—Juliette Pope, Gramercy Tavern (NYC)
Go Rustic
Go Rustic
"To me grilled food is rustic food, often it's something meaty and usually herby or salted—so I think about slightly more rustic wines. Wines made from formidable grapes that don't end up being too fruity because we're eating meat—chances are—or vegetables. Both of these items tend to have earthy adjectives: meat is iron, blood and salt and vegetables are fibrous. They pick up the grill quite a bit and can range from slightly metallic to almost sweet. I think red wines from Beaujolais and Cabernet Franc from the Loire are good reds for grilled food because they're just mid-weight wines. (chill 'em down a little too for summer) and rosé works just about any way you slice it. Whites – I think Vernaccia di San Gimignano from Tuscany or even some of our Sicilian whites – hell, there's a volcano there, they've got the rustic fire thing going on. Essentially wine for grilling should be inexpensive, mid-weight, rustic and it should all go in the fridge (yes! Even the red)."—Liz Vilardi, Belly Wine Bar (Cambridge, MA)
Consider Red with Grilled Fish
Consider Red with Grilled Fish
"Many wines work with grilled foods, so I think it’s important to note what doesn’t: stay away from heavy alcoholic reds (Zinfandel, Napa Cab, some Châteauneuf du Pape), heady Viognier (Condrieu) and overly sweet whites. Now wines that do work… Grilled fish doesn’t necessarily require a white. I actually prefer a light, juicy red like some of the Sicilian, mineral driven ones. With grilled veggies try a light Riesling or Sauvignon Blanc with a clean acidity. If feta cheese is involved I love a nice Greek Assyrtiko. Grilled chicken works well with white or red, just keep in mind once again to avoid too much power. With a steak, go for a hearty red. Cabernet Sauvignon is a classic but for spring, try the lighter, “greener” Cabernet Franc—I like its green pepper profile and slight earthiness, which combines well with juicy red meat."—Edouard Bourgeois, Café Boulud (NYC)
Start with Muscadet, Move to Syrah
Start with Muscadet, Move to Syrah
"There’s nothing more enjoyable than being outside, working a grill with a glass of wine in your hand. Muscadet is a great way to start: it’s crisp and refreshing and goes very well with nearly all types of seafood, especially raw or grilled oysters, and most vegetables. Cru Beaujolais is excellent with grilled chicken, and depending upon how warm the weather is, it’s a good idea to serve it slightly chilled, helping it retain its natural, brisk feel. With steak, I’ve always enjoyed more aromatic reds rather than those driven by big and dark fruit tones. Pinot Noir can offer this, but so can Syrah from a cool climate like the Northern Rhône. With inherent white-pepper and bacon-fat tones Syrah from this region tends to uplift the natural gamey tones of steak rather than combat them."—Ian Becker, The Absinthe Group (San Francisco)
Fish or Meat?
Fish or Meat?
"For me, it depends on the items being grilled – fish & poultry are great with rosé, for meats and heavier vegetables a softer, more fruit forward pinot either from Oregon or Sonoma Coast would be my choice. The Two Brothers Pinot from Donelan Family Wines works amazing with heavier smoked and grilled items."—Orla Murphy-LaScola, American Seasons (Nantucket)
Highlight Smoky Flavors
Highlight Smoky Flavors
"When properly pairing with grilled food, it is all about the wine enhancing the flavors of this style of cooking. I want the smoky flavors to be highlighted, not muted, by the wine and for all flavors to be well balanced and harmonious on the palate. If it is barbecue or marinated grilled meats the wines will need structure, concentration and bold fruit to stand up to the bold flavors of the protein. A classic but accurate go-to for many would be a spicy domestic Zinfandel or Syrah. Though less concentrated, an “Old World” expression of a Rioja with ample bottle age could work wonderfully as well. For grilled vegetables, I would be inclined to lean toward rosé or a coastal white wine whose terroir provides some salinity and texture, perhaps a Bandol Blanc, or a white blend from the Amalfi Cost such as Marisa Cuomo’s Ravello Bianco."—Colleen Hein, Eastern Standard Kitchen & Drinks (Boston)
Cut Through Fat with Acid
Cut Through Fat with Acid
"For grilled foods, I really like rich roses, or lighter, high-acid reds to cut through the fats. Think Cru Beaujolais, or pinot noir from Burgundy or the Loire. A couple of sleeper reds for me, though, and at a much less steep price point, are the cabernet francs of the Loire. Chinon is a great example: its graphite tone with big red fruit often plays well. On the other hand, if you are grilling a white meat, I like to think of Smaragd level wines from the Wachau in Austria, as they are the third picking through the fields; these wines tend to have certain intensity, an almost smoky undertone. Search for gruner or riesling with a little age, or the off the beaten bath grauburgunder (pinot gris). They offer texture, acid and won't run over more delicate meats. Rudi Pichler, Franz Hirtzberger and Prager all make stunning examples."—Tom Schlesinger-Guidelli, Island Creek Oyster Bar (Boston)
Lighter Weight Than You Might Think
Lighter Weight Than You Might Think
"Grilled foods can be a challenging pairing. While these dishes have an intensity of flavor, imparted from the grilling, the overall weight of the food can be deceptively light, especially when we consider the overall context in which grilled foods are enjoyed: al fresco, warm weather, and often paired with salads. I like wines with lots of intense flavor that are more mid-weight and bright on the finish. One of my favorites is Syncline’s 'Subduction' from Washington State, a Rhône-style blend that is Mourvedre-heavy. The wine has big dark fruit notes and a savory, meaty core, but it is fresh and spicy on the finish. It works with everything from grilled pork chops to a loaded burger. For grilled vegetables I like lighter Italian reds, such as basic Valpolicella and Barbera. These wines tend to be lighter weight, with juicy red cherry flavors and a slightly bitter finish, which really works with veggies that are charred. And the best thing here is that when looking for these wines you actually want to go for the lower price point versions, the ones aged without a lot of oak. Think $12-15 retail, max. And lastly, if you are invited to a BBQ and don’t know what is being served, you can’t go wrong with a nice bottle of Beaujolais-Villages. This wine is super versatile, and it can even be served with a slight chill."—Caryn Benke, Andina (Portland OR)
Something for Everything
Something for Everything
"My favorite grilled chicken pairing would be a classic Californian Chardonnay, and of course a bottle of white Burgundy will work just as great! For grilled fish, I like to use thin-skin red grapes that have very minimal new barrel treatment or no oak at all. I find traditional southern Italian red wine, such as Gaglioppo found in Ciró in Calabria, works really well. For grilled veggies, I prefer high acid whites and I always tend to find myself going to Grüner Veltliner from Austria or Sauvignon Blanc from Loire or NZ be great with this. And for grilled meats, Argentina Malbec, Australia Cabernet Sauvignon or Bordeaux blend from California will work wonders."—Arthur Hon, Sepia (Chicago)
Sauce or No Sauce?
Sauce or No Sauce?
"If you are grilling with a BBQ sauce, I would use fruity wines like Grenache from California, Primitivo from Italy, Pinot Noir from Sonoma Coast of California such as Hirsch, Hartford Court or Arista. For Veggies I would do a rose wine to counter the smoke from the grill and balance the herbaciouseness from the veggies: Try Ca Vittoria Prosecco, Peay "Cep" Russian River Valley and La Badiola "Acquagiusta" Maremma IGT, Tuscany, Italy. For grilled fish, I recommend a wine high in texture like Gruner Veltliner Smaragd level like: Franz Hirtzberger, "Rotes Tor", Soave Pieropan Classico 2010 from Italy or a rich Chablis like Patrick Piuze "Petite Chablis" 2011."—Molly Wismeier, Restaurant R’evolution (New Orleans)