5 Great Wines for Your Weekend Cookout

Grilling up eats for a weekend cookout? Try these wines.I love wine, we know that, but I also love food. And not just the fancy food that you might think wine lovers are all into, with tiny forks and multi-colored slats spread over glittering tables.

I also love, actually I prefer, food that you can eat with your hands while hanging out with your best friends in the backyard. Funny thing is that when you've got a sandwich in one hand it gets increasingly difficult to snob out with a wine that's in the other greasy paw!

The solution? Stop snobbing and start slumming with the wines that work with your greasy mitt-fulls. That's right, cheap wine can be the perfect solution for your basic summer grill out, and you don't even need the fancy glassware to appreciate the wines. Time to grab a tumbler or even a Solo cup and lots of napkins, kick back and enjoy the summer grilling season.

Photo courtesy of AMAPO via Wikimedia Commons

Hot Dogs

Very little says summer more than bare feet in the grass, sand in the crack of your, ummm, uhh… and hot dogs! Great hot dogs! Lightly smoky, lightly greasy hot dogs blinged out with your favorite condiments. In my case this means sauerkraut and ketchup. Yes I know, it's freaky, but that's what hot dogs are all about, getting your freak on. Have you seen what passes for a hot dog in Chicago?

So what should you serve with your hot dogs? It's a tough call since there is so much going on with most hot dog preparations, so I'm suggesting a simple wine that easily adapts to almost anything you can throw at it. A simple, zesty white wine.

Time to reach for the liter bottles of Grüner Veltliner. Yup, the simple fruit, light spice and zesty acidity of quaff-able Grüner is an ideal and unpretentious match for your worst wurst!

Two to try:

Hofer Grüner Veltliner

Lenz Moser Grüner Veltliner


If you do want to get a bit fancy, you can add some succulent sausages to your weekend grill-a-thon. I am sausage fanatic, I've made them, sold them and devoured them! There is almost an endless selection to choose from: turkey, pork, beef, spicy, mild, smoked, raw. The large selection makes choosing a single wine to pair with the generic sausage category one heck of a challenge.

So where to turn? I'm going to opt for an old standby that is usually a winner with smoky, salty summer snacks: Lambrusco.

We all know that Lambrusco has gotten a bad rap over the years for being simple, sweet and, god forbid, a sweet sparkling red wine. Get over it. A slightly sweet sparkling red is just what many sausages are looking for, so kick back and enjoy the contrast of flavors and textures this paring creates.

Two to try:

Lambrusco di Sorbara Amabile

For something on the dry side try: Cleto Chiarli Lambrusco


Of course any cook out needs a few burgers; big juicy burgers, rare and charred and topped with crisp red onions, a few pickle slices, ketchup, good cheese and some cracked pepper. But the more you add to your burger, the harder the wine pairing becomes!

Every combination makes it more and more difficult to find the right wine, so let's opt instead for an okay wine! Something simple, fruity, bright and intense enough to stand up to everything you're going to throw at it. What could that be? How about some spicy, black-fruited Mourvedre from Spain!

Big, intense, a bit spicy and sometimes even beefy, Monastrell is your hamburger helper!

Two to Try:

Luzon Monastrell

Olivares Monastrell Altos de la Hoya 2009

Tuna Burgers

Burgers these days don't always have to rely on beefy goodness, often you find burgers that are based on poultry or fish. I'm not going to crown any thing a "veggie burger" yet, that might take me a few more years.

I have had more than my share of grilled tuna "burgers" and even burgers from chopped up tuna that's been pressed into a patty. If I am going to pony up the cash for a tuna burger, I want a nice slab of tuna, black and blue please.

A simple preparation of grilled tuna on a toasted hamburger bun topped with a touch of smoked chipotle and sun-dried tomato spread sounds about right to me, and it's a perfect sandwich to pair with a nice, lusty Pinot Noir. Yes, we all know that pinot noir matches well with tuna. The wine and fish share a delicacy of texture and subtlety of flavor that make them sing together.

Two To try:

Mud House Pinot Noir

Schug Pinot Noir

Grilled Portobello Sandwich

Not withstanding my refusal to call this a burger, here is another grilling season standby. I have to admit that I love grilled mushrooms. Portobellos in particular are fantastic grilled, with crispy edges from being rubbed vigorously with olive oil imbued with the flavors and scents of rosemary, garlic and black pepper.

The meaty flavors of the mushroom paired with the smoky grilled flavors and dressing make these little discs of deliciousness a great sandwich filler, topped with a touch of sheep's milk cheese, some roasted bell peppers and perhaps a touch of black olive tapenade. Wow, that sounds good. It's an easy dish to pair with a variety of wines. I'd look for a nice, robust rosé, something a bit funky yet fruity. While I'm not yet convinced this is a burger, there's good reason to compare it to the classic burger requirements when wine pairing.

Mourvedre worked for the classic burger, so why not Mourvedre rosé for the Portobellowich? The wines are a bit meaty and fruity with a touch of spice. It's a compelling pairing and one I'm looking forward to experimenting with all summer long!

Two to try:

Pibarnon Bandol Rose

Bedrock Wine Co. Ode to Lulu Rose

Want to Learn More?
Get tips on what wines pair best with grilled pork for your Memorial Day cookout. Click here to read our pairing guide!

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