A hand holding a wine glass in front of an outdoor barbecue, where grilling might be done.

Summertime is here and it’s the perfect time for grilling. In the month of July, a backyard event wouldn’t be complete without a group of friends, good drinks, and plenty of food cooking over open flames. The usual pairing for this type of casual cuisine is a tall, cold one, but let us help elevate your next gathering by putting a stem on that glass! 

While rosé and white wine are the most obvious backyard sippers, we’d like red wine to find a seat at the picnic table, too. Instead of sitting outside with a less than refreshing warm glass of Cabernet Sauvignon, try a chilled red that can still hold its own with outdoor fare.

Chilling doesn’t necessarily mean that your reds should come straight from the fridge. Somewhere between 55 and 60 degrees is ideal. Reds that taste great served at these temps are unoaked with lower tannin and higher acid like Cabernet Franc, or Sangiovese. Younger wines work well. We recommend our customers look for wine packaged in clear bottles. Wines in these see-through containers are meant to be consumed young and are great for chilling. 

You’ll probably see plenty of hamburgers or steaks at summer parties and thankfully, red meat and red wine are natural partners. Wines that are full-bodied and tannic are classically paired with beef, and they have the ability to stand up to fattier cuts. It is important to consider a red that will hold up to full flavor and fat while served at a lower temp. 

As previously mentioned, Cabernet Franc is a great summertime red to pair with grilled meat. This classic varietal has ideal structure, balanced tannins, and hails from France, with especially great choices from the Loire Valley.

Also, you’ll find this grape in a US version that comes from a cooler growing region – like the Finger Lakes of New York. We love Cabernet Francs from Osmote’s Seneca Lake and Ravines Wine Cellars. Another great varietal to try this summer with red meat is American Gamay which has recently become more mainstream and accessible. Hailing from Beaujolais, France, this grape as it’s grown in the U.S. retains its minerality and fruitiness, in turn, making it a perfect cheeseburger partner. Try Stolpman GTG Blend from Central Coast, CA or Anne Amie Gamay from Willamette Valley, OR. 

While we are on the grill, how can we forget another bun-friendly food, the hotdog!  No Fourth of July is complete without this American favorite. Your wine pairing can be as exotic as your wiener toppings, but white wine seems to be the safest bet.  A perfect choice would be something that breaks up the salt with some acid. La Marea ‘Kristy’s Vineyard’ Albarino from Monterey, CA is a favorite, or try some pink bubbles – Poe ‘Ultraviolet’ Sparkling Rosé would be very fitting!

Maybe the most truly American classic food is slow-smoked barbeque. Although its origins are hotly debated, BBQ-ing is a summertime ritual involving many types of meats and incredible, bold flavors. Here in the melting pot of Atlanta, our residents embrace BBQ from all over the country. We’ve seen vinegary East Carolina BBQ, mustard-based South Carolina style, spicy Texan, and even the sweetness of Kansas City BBQ all served at the same party. Each regional style is unique, with different sauces and proteins to consider for wine pairings, so let’s keep it simple.

It has been noted by wine professionals near and far that Rosé is the perfect barbeque pairing. Refreshing, quaffable, with acidity that will tame even the spiciest of sauces, look for a Rosé that has a deeper color. Division Wine Cellars ‘L’Avoiron’ Village Rosé of Gamay or House of Brown Rosé are two of our very favorites. If you want to stick with red wine, Italian varietals would be magic. Look for the chillable Idlewild ‘Flora and Fauna’ from Mendocino, CA, or Stolpman ‘Love You Bunches’ Carbonic Sangiovese from Central Coast CA.  If white wine is your thing, then again the more acidic the better. Try Illahe Viognier from Willamette Valley, OR or DeSante ‘The Old Vine’ Field Blend from Napa Valley, CA.

Still have room on your grill? Let’s talk poultry and fish. Grilled chicken just hits differently, with the right amount of char, smoky flavor, and seasoning, and deserves a wine like Day Wines ‘Dazzles of Light’ Blend from Willamette Valley or Elizabeth Spencer Sauvignon Blanc from Mendocino. Grilled seafood and fish are incredible at the beach or backyard cookout and are perfectly wine-friendly. When grilling salmon, try a balanced Chardonnay like Presqu’ile Chardonnay from Santa Maria, CA. For our red fans try a Pinot Noir like Land of Saints from Central Coast, CA. For shrimp or white fish, a Pinot Gris from Oregon – Coeur du Terre makes a great one. Yet again, Rosé would match any of these proteins flawlessly!  This summer, as you head to that backyard soiree, arrive with some fireworks in the form of wines matched for what’s on the grill, ready to beat the Georgia heat.

Katie Rice owns VinoTeca, a wine shop in Atlanta and is a regular contributor to Atlanta Intown.

Sarah Pierre owns 3 Parks Wine Shop in Atlanta and is a regular contributor to Atlanta Intown.