Pairing food and wine can seem like a daunting task. You came into the wine store with one goal: to pick up a bottle for a backyard barbecue. Knowing which wine complements the flavor of a grilled sausage is tough, but you don’t want to be the friend who shows up with a six-pack of Coors Light either. Luckily, matching food and wine doesn’t have to be a Google-dependent endeavor and is easier than you might think.
“There’s a science to pairing wine and food. It has to do with the acid, tannins, alcohol and sweetness of the wines paired with the food,” says Adam Fleischer, co-founder and owner of The Wine Spot, a unique craft wine and beer store in Cleveland, Ohio. It’s all about balance according to Fleischer, who says, “The fattier the food, the higher acid you want in the wine since it counteracts the fat in foods.”
When it comes to selecting summer wines, Fleischer recommends keeping it light, refreshing and opting for something with a lower alcohol content (great for day-drinking). “Whites with little to no oak, bubbly and reds such as nebbiolo, Beaujolais, dry rosé, pinot noir, Lambruscos work nicely with most summer dishes like grilled foods, fish, veggies and pizza. I stay away from anything with too much alcohol or intense reds for the most part.”
At the end of the day, you should buy wines you enjoy drinking and don’t be afraid to experiment. Below are six easy summer pairings that will get you started. Bonus points for using the words “tannins” and “mouthfeel” when serving these to your friends and family.
Lambrusco + burgers
Lambrusco, a bubbly dry red, is a great accompaniment to a grilled burger, steak or BBQ pork sandwich. “The acid and bubbles refresh and cleanse your palate from the fat on the tongue.” Fleischer says.
Dry rosé + cheese
Rosé is like that friend who’s great at parties — she can hold her own in a crowd of strangers, chatting up your awkward office mate with ease. A dry rosé goes exceptionally well with appetizers and cheeses, Fleischer says. This herbed ricotta and tomato bruschetta would be perfect with a glass of rosé. A simple summer cheese board is another great option.
Sparkling white + lemon pasta with tomatoes and basil
Prosecco, like rosé, is an easygoing wine. It pairs well with rich, salty foods like olives, aged cheeses or cured meats. Another sparkling white option Fleischer recommends is Ulacia Txakolina (pronounced chakolina). “It’s a wonderful, slightly fizzy white wine from the Basque region of Spain. Dry, light and super-fun for summer.” Try it with a summery pasta dish with tomatoes, lemon zest and fresh Parmesan. The wine’s acidity and freshness also complements a salad studded with summer fruits like peaches or nectarines.
Montepulciano D’Abruzzo + grilled pizza
Looking for a bang-for-your-buck red that over delivers? Montepulciano d’Abruzzo is the wine for you. This earthy red comes from the Abruzzi hills above the Adriatic coast of central Italy and pairs well with anything tomato based — an heirloom tomato salad or a grilled pizza would be perfect.
Spanish white blend + skirt steak tacos
While red meat is traditionally paired with a hearty red, Fleischer recommends serving a white instead. “Since we grill a lot in the summer, those foods tend to have some fat component, so go for the higher-acid refreshing wines with a little chill on them.” Fleischer recently enjoyed this white from Black Slate, which he served with grilled skirt steak.
Sauvignon blanc + roasted vegetable sandwiches with goat cheese
A bright, citrusy sauvignon blanc pairs well with a roasted vegetable and goat cheese sandwich — the perfect picnic food. The clean acidity in the wine balances the minerality of the goat cheese. This insulated wine tote will keep your bottle cool on a hot day.