Memorial Day acts as the official kick-off to grilling season. And now that it’s here (finally!), it’s time to stock up on wines you can pull out for those impromptu burger nights.
There seem to be two schools of thought when picking good wine for your burger: overthinking and underthinking. In the former, you can get all scientific about meat char levels, fat ratios, rareness vs. doneness and then try to target the wine with the right amount of tannins, age, and alcohol levels. (Holy complicated.) For the latter, it’s an anything-big-bold-and-red approach. (It’s just a burger after all.)
But there’s a middle ground: Loosely matching your wine to burger toppings. The toppings, after all, tend to make the burger. And whether you’re a fan of basic lettuce-and-tomato or more elaborate get-ups, there’s a wine out there for you.
Here’s our basic guide:
Topping: Lettuce and Tomato
Pair with: Cabernet Franc
Why: Most commonly found in the Loire Valley, France, this red tends to be lighter with some herbal notes, which means it’s great with fresh veggies and charred-grilled burgers.
Topping: American Cheese
Pair with: Lambrusco
Why: The bubbles will help cut through the fat and the fruitiness of the wine will be a good complement to the mild flavor of American cheese.
Pair with: West Coast Pinot Noir
Why: Pinot Noir that’s been aged with just a touch of French new oak, as is common in American versions, tends to have some smoky notes that work well with bacon. Plus a more robust bodied wine that can handle big flavor.
Topping: Sautéed Mushrooms
Pair with: Nebbiolo
Why: Mushrooms are a natural pairing with earthy, acidic Nebbiolo, a red grape grown in Northern Italy. But the Italian wine labels can get confusing: look for wines labeled Barolo, Barbaresco, Gattinara and Roero to find a Nebbiolo-based wine.
Topping: Blue Cheese
Pair with: Zinfandel
Why: With something as assertive as blue cheese, you’re going to have trouble locking in a perfect match. So maybe go with a fruitier style of Zinfandel. The wine will be as bold as the cheese and have a slight sweetness that can help smooth things over.
What are some burger and wine pairings that you like?