Fresh Off The Grill: Italian Wine Pairings For Grilled Favorites
Spring is only a few days away, which means that warm weather and relaxing outdoor afternoons are just around the corner. Grab some charcoal and a bottle of wine, because it’s also the time of year for everyone’s favorite grilled foods. From T-bone steaks to barbecue chicken, an authentic Italian wine is one of the best ways to enjoy the savory, smoky flavors of food that’s fresh off the grill.
Nothing is better than enjoying a cookout with friends and family, so this blog post is designed to make it a bit easier to select the perfect wine pairing to entertain your guests. Our wine experts will even explain why grilled food tastes so delicious and why a balanced bottle of wine enhances the flavors of your favorite dish. Start heating up the grill and grab a wine opener because it’s time to start grilling.
Grilling Tips For Italian Recipes
There’s something about grilled food that just tastes better than anything that comes out of the oven. Charred crispy edges and characteristic grill marks are just part of the mouthwatering appeal of grilled meats, vegetables, and even fruits. How and why can you perfect your cookout for the perfect Italian meal?
Charcoal vs Gas
In Italian cuisine, grilling recipes usually recommend using charcoal or hardwood chips instead of gas. Charcoal may take longer to heat up, but it emits a hotter flame that gives the food a crunchier exterior than a conventional gas grill. At the same time, charcoal enthusiasts rave about the added smoky flavor that is imparted into the food – a quality you simply can’t achieve through other methods of cooking. The smokiness of charcoal-grilled recipes becomes the perfect match for a robust glass of wine.
The Right Marinade
Marinating meat overnight can be one of the best ways to experiment with new flavors and add a more complex element to the dish. With every marinade, we recommend three main components: acid, salt, and flavoring.
- Acids like lemon juice or balsamic vinegar (an Italian staple) will make the meat tender on the exterior and add an extra tang that’s perfect for tannin-rich wines. Just remember not to overuse acid – it should only make up about 10% of the marinade.
- Salt is one of the most important elements of grilling. It’s one of the only compounds that can penetrate deep into a slice of meat and make the dish taste richer and more flavorful. Salt will also prime your taste buds for the next sip of wine, giving the beverage a more full-bodied taste as it opens up across the palate.
- Flavoring is the final component of a good marinade. This is where we can add traditional Italian spices like rosemary, sage, oregano, or garlic to give the meat a more complex, exciting flavor. Other ingredients like brown sugar or chopped onions are also a great addition to bring in more flair.
Don’t Mess With It
An all-too-common error for beginners is pressing down too hard on the meat. We often see this with grilled burgers – the “grillmaster” will press the spatula down on the meat, essentially squeezing out the natural juices from the meat. This will dry out the interior of the burger and eliminate of the fatty, oily substrate that makes the meat taste so delicious. Once the meat hits the grill, it should only be touched once for flipping.
Go Easy On The Char
Like we pointed out earlier, the charred edges of grilled chicken or steak are one of the best parts of grilling. At the same time, it is always best to keep charring at a minimum because it can make the food taste burnt. When pairing wine with your grilled foods, too much char can leave your wine tasting bitter, which is something we especially don’t want for lighter, fruitier bottles.
Finding the Best Pairing
What’s your favorite grilled food? Whether it’s a juicy cheeseburger or a filet of grilled salmon, our wine pairing experts will recommend our top picks for the most popular recipes off the grill.
Grilled Salmon: When it comes to the light flavor and silky texture of salmon, it’s best to pick a wine that will not overpower the fish’s taste. A red wine with light fruity flavors will emphasize the fresh taste of the filet. Especially when the salmon is prepared with a lemon and dill sauce, an elegant, smooth red wine will be the perfect complement to the dish.
- Our Pick: Candoni Pinot Noir
Grilled Steak: A delicious piece of grilled steak should be fatty, thick, and juicy, so our favorite cuts are going to be a Ribeye or T-bone. These steaks won’t have the tough, chewy consistency of other cuts and will pair nicely with a bold, robust red wine. For this grilled recipe, we want a full-bodied, hearty wine that will add extra depth and flavor to the steak.
- Our Pick: Candoni Buongiorno Red Blend
Burgers: When it comes to wine pairings with grilled burgers, it’s all about the toppings you add. For a burger topped with Swiss cheese, mushrooms, and onions, you’ll need a darker, more complex wine than a cheeseburger with American cheese, lettuce and tomato. Usually though, we will recommend a medium-bodied red wine as the best option to go for most burger lovers.
- Our Pick: Candoni Merlot
Grilled Zucchini and Asparagus: With a dash of garlic, a drizzle of olive oil, and a sprinkle of salt and pepper, these vegetables are delicious additions to any backyard cookout. Grilled vegetables are usually soft in texture and smoky in flavor, so we prefer pairing these sides with semi-sweet, crisp white wines that won’t drown out the food’s light taste.
- Our Pick: Candoni Pinot Grigio
Barbecue Chicken: What kind of barbecue sauce do you prefer? For a traditional vinegar-based sauce that’s both sweet and tangy, we are going to recommend a nontraditional, exciting wine that will emphasize the flavors of the sauce. A light rosé will pair perfectly with the smoky, hearty flavor of barbecue chicken for a refreshing taste and chilled, sweet finish.
- Our Pick: Elviana Rosé
The warm weather of spring is always a great time to enjoy the outdoors with friends and family over a delicious meal. As you’re preparing for your next backyard grilling session, remember some of the grilling tips above and try pairing it with one of our Italian wine recommendations. To find a bottle of Candoni De Zan Wine near you, visit our online Store Locator.