Sommelier Roundtable: What's Your Go-To Wine for a Barbecue?

From chilled reds to Champagne, here's what these 10 wine pros are drinking by the grill, pool and patio
Sommelier Roundtable: What's Your Go-To Wine for a Barbecue?
Throw some magnums in the cooler, and take in a summer afternoon. (iStockPhoto)
Aug 24, 2018

As temperatures continue to spike into the 80s and beyond, and Labor Day awaits just around the corner, you may find yourself in the pool and by the grill for a significant chunk of the coming weeks. But whether you're out on the patio, porch, beach or boat, you'll want cool wines with warm vibes to pair.

What kind of wine does a somm bring to a cookout or picnic when the sun is shining and the burgers are sizzling? We asked 10 wine pros from Wine Spectator Restaurant Award winners what their go-to drinks for seasonal sipping are. From rosé and bubbles to chilled reds and Campari cocktails, here's what they're swilling while grilling.

Wine Spectator: What's your current go-to for outdoor (especially barbecue and picnic) drinking?

Cheryl Wakerhauser, owner and wine director at Best of Award of Excellence winner Pix Pâtisserie & Bar Vivant in Portland, Ore.

Manzanilla Sherry, hands down. It's hot out, right? What's more refreshing than a cold, briny glass of Manzanilla to sip on next to the hot grill that is plumb-full of tasty langoustines and shrimp. Just thinking about it makes me want to move to Sanlúcar de Barrameda.

Matthew Conway, wine director at Best of Award of Excellence winner Restaurant Marc Forgione, in New York

If the producer is good, the rosé is usually good. I don't think there are any secrets, but Schloss Gobelsburg makes a Gobelsburger rosé, which is like a Zweigelt–St. Laurent blend, which is great. Baudry Chinon is one of my favorites; there's lots of Loire Valley rosés that I drink, and obviously the south of France. I love rosé.

Chelsea Carrier, wine director at Award of Excellence winner Vinateria in New York

I am quite lucky to have a backyard in Manhattan, so barbecue happens every weekend in the summer. My go-to beverage for outside is a Rome with a View (Campari, dry Vermouth, lime, simple syrup and soda water). It is everything that I want from a patio-crusher: citrus-driven, refreshing, low-alcohol and, most importantly, delicious.

Erik Segelbaum, wine director for Philadelphia-based Starr Restaurants, including Best of Award of Excellence winners Upland, the Clocktower and Le Coucou in New York; Barclay Prime and Butcher & Singer in Philadelphia; Upland in Miami Beach and Steak 954 in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.; and Le Diplomate in Washington, D.C.

I am a big fan of red wines that are, as the Austrians call them, "drinky," in that they are just easy to throw back and not too heavy, a sort of bright, lighter style of red wines that take especially well to a chill. I've found a lot of success of late with Sicilian reds, especially Nero d'Avola with a little bit of chill on it. In Sardinia, Cannonaus and Grenaches. I just had an incredible Teroldego from Alto Adige.

Basically any of the lighter-style Italian with a little bit of a chill, I love those with barbecue, because they've got enough structure and enough texture and enough going on to support the intensity of the flavors. They've got enough acidity to support whatever fat is being added, whether that's cheese on a hot dog, or potato salad or any of the stereotypical American barbecue stuff. And who wants to drink something warm when they're outside? So the idea of drinking a cold-temperature wine that has a different flavor profile and structure than a white wine makes me very happy. I'll definitely throw in as my first, foremost and favorite, cru Beaujolais with a chill. I especially love it with grilled meats, chicken, game, anything like that.

That being said, I subscribe to the universe of: Drink what you want, eat what you want. And if there are great white wines that aren't classic pairings for grilled steak or hamburgers, who cares? Just drink it. I certainly feel like Riesling is always appropriate, especially outside. I actually like slightly off-dry expressions with grilled meats. I especially like Rieslings with a little bit of RS and maturity, so whether it's Australian or Austrian or German or American, the older the better. And as those flavor profiles develop, they are the friend of the grill.

Andy Myers, wine director for José Andrés' ThinkFoodGroup, including nationwide locations of Jaleo and other José Andrés restaurants

It’s been hotter than the boiler room of hell in D.C. this summer, so I’m drinking lots of refreshing stuff like González Byass Dos Palmas Fino with lots of chilled oysters. I had a case of 2015 Louis Michel Chablis that seemed to disappear rather quickly, and the Leirana Albariño has been flowing like water all summer long.

Andrew Algren, wine director at Best of Award of Excellence winner Cherry Circle Room in Chicago

My go-to outdoor summertime barbecue/boating/sneak-into-a-concert choice of late has been Brokenwood's 2016 Hunter Valley Sémillon out of Australia. Dry, high-toned acid, and at only 10.5 percent ABV, you can stay on your feet even on the hottest of days. The saline quality makes it perfect for grilled seafood and veggies, and the pure chuggability factor means it works with everything else, too.

Rebecca Kirhoffer, owner and wine director at Award of Excellence winner Rebeccas in Greenwich, Conn.

As a person who loves wine and rarely drinks [hard] alcohol, in the summer on a very hot day I love to have a margarita. I make it light on the liquor and add freshly squeezed pink grapefruit juice.

That being said, there is nothing like a cold glass of rosé wine or rosé Champagne on a hot summer night. I love Chêne Bleu rosé these days and never say no to a glass of Billecart-Salmon rosé. We serve it by the glass at the restaurant, and we sell a lot of it. Why not serve exceptional wines by the glass?

Brian Phillips, national wine director for Orlando-based Darden Restaurants, which holds Restaurant Awards for 55 locations of the Capital Grille, 15 of Eddie V's and 40 of Seasons 52

Riesling. Off-dry and fresh versions are my go-to on-the-ice wine for outdoor drinking; Selbach-Oster and Dr. Hermann are a couple accessible options.

Virginia Philip, wine director at Grand Award winner HMF and Best of Award of Excellence winner Flagler Steakhouse at the Breakers in Palm Beach, Fla.

Château Léoube rosé, Côtes de Provence, France, 2017; Castelo do Mar Albariño, Rias Baíxas, Spain, 2016; Wölffer Estate Ciders, Hamptons, New York; Illumination Sauvignon Blanc, Napa Valley, 2015; Torbreck Woodcutter's Sémillon, Barossa Valley, Australia, 2015; Shinas Estate The Guilty Shiraz, Victoria, Australia, 2014; Big Sky Pinot Noir, Martinborough, New Zealand, 2014; Damien Coquelet Chiroubles Beaujolais, France, 2015; Avignonesi Vino Nobile de Montepulciano, 2013.

Alexander LaPratt, owner and wine director at Best of Award of Excellence winners Beasts & Bottles and Atrium Dumbo in Brooklyn, N.Y.

Champagne. And it's not because I'm pretentious; it's because it's delicious, and it's very food-friendly.

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