Essential Okanagan Wines For Your Next Barbecue

Longer days, shorter nights, and seemingly endless hours of sunshine. That’s right! Summer has arrived and it’s time to fire up the grill. Round up your nearest and dearest for a backyard barbecue bash – we can’t think of a better way to put that extra bit of daylight to good use. Although many of us might be tempted to reach for a beer when we’re grilling up a feast, there are some seriously fantastic wine and BBQ pairings you should be trying this summer. We’ve curated a list of some of our favourite pairings for classic barbecue fare to inspire your next grill-fest.
Barbecuing meatier fish like salmon or trout? Because these fish are fattier and have a bit more going on in the flavour department, you’ll want to lean towards a full-bodied wine. A subtly oaked Chardonnay is an excellent choice, as is a Rhone-style white like Intersection Winery Roussanne-Marsanne. For those of you who are die-hard red wine drinkers, you can actually get away with a rosé or lighter red. A light-bodied Pinot Noir is a safe bet, but a fruity, low tannin Gamay is an even better choice. For shellfish starters like prawns, we love sparkling wine. A glass of bubbly highlights the mild sweetness of a prawn while refreshing your palate between sips.
For grilled chicken, stick with whites and rosés to keep you cool this summer. If you’ve seasoned your bird with a citrus-herb rub, piggyback on those flavours with a wine of a similar flavour profile. In this case, a lively Sauvignon Blanc is the way to go. Our pick? Winemaker’s CUT Sauvignon Blanc. For a smokier rub, opt for rosé. The slightly richer, berry-tinged palate of a wine like the Okanagan Crush Pad Narrative rosé will act as a complementary foil to your chicken’s seasoning.
If you’ve whipped up a batch of wings doused in hot sauce, an off-dry Riesling like Intersection Winery Riesling or an off-dry, low alcohol, Zinfandel rosé will tame the flames. That hint of residual sugar left over in the wine will stand up to the hottest hot sauce you can cook up.
Speaking of Riesling, in terms of pairings for the other white meat, white wines and Riesling, in particular, are the classic go-tos for pork. The sweet flavours of baby back ribs slathered in a classic BBQ sauce play well with an off-dry Riesling. The same holds true for honey mustard or molasses-based marinades. Sausages and chops, especially when served with apples (try throwing them on the grill for extra flavour), are fantastic with a Chenin Blanc. Quail’s Gate makes an excellent example of this seductive wine. And if white wine isn’t really your jam, a vibrant Grenache like the outstanding bottling made by Stag’s Hollow, needs to be on your radar.
For beef, glorious beef, that cornerstone of any BBQ get-together, the answer is actually rather simple: go bold. Big, high tannin reds get the job done when it comes to pairing wine with red meat. The fats and umami characteristic (that’s the savoury element you find in meat, mushrooms, and soy sauce) in beef will help soften the wine’s higher tannin levels, resulting in a reliable pairing you can count on time after time. Red wine lovers should reach for something fruity, perhaps with some coffee and chocolate notes like those found in Screaming Frenzy Meritage.
For red meat heavily seasoned with pepper, a northern Rhone-style red is all you need. Look to the Oliver-Osoyoos subregion and its excellent Syrahs. Full of fruit and a nice touch of earth, wines like Winemaker’s CUT Syrah will enhance that pepper note, for a perfect like for like pairing. Protip: cheeseburgers are also fantastic with Oliver Syrahs.
Vegetarians needn’t feel left out – while pairing wine with veggies can pose a slight challenge, if you know the tricks of the trade, pairing becomes a cinch. Mushrooms are a popular vegetarian staple and these healthy fungi are actually quite easy to pair with wine. Mushrooms have the same savoury umami flavour we see in red meat. Go for a wine with a similar savoury profile like an earthy, cool climate Pinot Noir.
Mediterranean-inspired veggie kebabs with grilled bell peppers, onions, and zucchini call for something lively. Steer towards herb-scented rosés for grilled vegetables – rosé of Cabernet Franc is an excellent starting point. A racy Sauvignon Blanc will also treat your palate right. As for tofu? It’s all about the preparation. Follow the same general guidelines for meat marinades.
To make life easier, here are some bullet points to keep in your back pocket.

  • Let any marinades or rubs you might be using guide your choice of wine.
  • Expanding on that point, choosing a like for like pairing is always a safe bet. Bold marinades need bold wines, sweet goes with sweet, and so on.
  • Grilling adds a smoky flavour to foods, so wines which have a similarly smoky character will be real winners.
    Spicing things up? Avoid high alcohol/heavily oaked wines (which can make chilli spice seem hotter) or try an off-dry or sweet wine.
  • If it’s sweltering outside, you can chill your light-bodied reds (e.g. Pinot Noir, Grenache, Gamay) to help cool you down.

So break out the charcoal and wood chips, get on the patio, and open up a few bottles of wine with friends. It’s a marvellous way to make the most of summer, especially when there’s great wine involved.

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