Weather Forecast


World of Wine: Fire up the grill with some perfectly paired wines

Ron Smith

Nice weather begs for grilling outdoors. And as wine lovers, we have a wonderful selection from which to pair: white, red or rosé.

The important thing to remember is to work with the wines you enjoy on their own – at least to start with – then experiment later.

Starting light with a white wine is usually the best approach. It helps get the palate conditioned to the alcohol and the salivary juices flowing in anticipation of the grilled concoction you are about to consume.

There are an abundance of whites from which to select: Riesling, Chardonnay and, for a locally grown variety, Frontenac Gris, available at many local North Dakota wineries.

The fruity character and acidity of these wines will also go well with basic grilling meats, such as hamburger and chicken.

If more than one wine is going to be served, always start with the white before serving the red, or the lighter before the heavier wines. Choices can be made that can match the flavors of the grilled dinner, or offer a contrast to the flavor palate.

To be a matchmaker is to match the texture and intensity of the food with an equally complex or simple wine.

For instance, basic shrimp scampi goes really well with Chardonnay, but adding hot red pepper and garlic to the dish makes Zinfandel a better match because the spicy notes in the wine complement the pepper in the dish.

Sometimes opposites will liven things up palate-wise. If the grilled dinner is going to be high in spices, then perhaps an unoaked Chardonnay or a Le Crescent – developed by the University of Minnesota researchers – will offer the delicious alternative. The grape is also grown on North Dakota, and because of its high acidity and off-sweet taste profile, would make the perfect foil for spicier meals.

For high-protein meals, such as sirloin steak or aged cheese, safe wines to go with are the red Cabernet Sauvignons or a favorite Merlot. Another favorite and “safe” pick to use for a high-protein, light lunch is Pinot Noir. It will not overpower the meal or put you into a sleep coma.

To the uninitiated, some red wines have a bitterness and drying impact on the mouth, which is the result of high tannins and high alcohol. These would be good wines to use with charcoal grillers who like to blacken their meat.

Finally, after the meal, why not a desert wine to sip in the cool of the evening? My two favorites are a Port or Madeira – both can stand on their own or pair nicely with chocolates for the finishing touch.