Finding a wine that works with the big flavors of BBQ is easier than you might think. The taste of BBQ is bold (and sweet when combined with sauce) so not every wine is a good choice. Avoid wines over 14.5% in alcohol content. They can open your taste buds to the point that the barbecue taste is overwhelming. Here are some general guidelines and a few specific recommendations:
Practically any sparkler from California, Spain or Italy is great with BBQ. Those tiny bubbles will scrub your palate and make each bite taste like your first. Blush sparkling wines are especially good with BBQ. Whatever your budget is, there are a lot to choose from. Try Taittinger Domaine Carneros Brut Rose ($33), Schramsberg Mirabelle Brut Rose ($22) or Domaine Ste Michelle Brut ($9).
Reds are often a favorite with BBQ but some white wines work as well, especially with pulled pork, chicken and of course fish. Instead of Chardonnay look for whites with a crisp, bright taste. They will cut through the rich, tongue coating qualities of BBQ much better. Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc, Pinot Grigio or Viognier are all good choices. Try Duckhorn Sauvignon Blanc ($26), Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc ($16), Monkey Bay Sauvignon Blanc ($10), Dry Creek Chenin Blanc ($10), Foxen Chenin Blanc ($20), or Miner Viognier ($15).
Dry Southern French blush wines are a great choice with BBQ. California has jumped into the action by using the same combination of grapes to produce a dry, not sweet blush wine. If your only memory of a blush wine is white zinfandel you'll be pleasantly surprised by this change of pace. Try: Moulin De Gassac ($10), Chateau Puligny Montrachet ($20), Domaine Fontsainte ($12), Bonny Doon Vin Gris de Cigare ($13).
Reds are an obvious choice particularly with beef and lamb. While Cabernet works well with BBQ, you might enjoy trying some of the following.
Syrah (Shiraz - same grape with a different name down under) A nice syrah with silky, smoky tannins, red berry and ripe fruit flavors will work well with BBQ. Try: Zaca Mesa ($15), Blackjack Estate Double Down ($20), Peter Lehmann Barossa ($12)
Zinfandel - The young spicy ones with lots of black pepper and raspberry work especially well with BBQ. Try: Hartford RRV ($30), Tobin James Paso Robles ($15), Manzanita Creek MC2 ($10).
Cote Du Rhone is another good choice. From the South of France this wine is smooth with well behaved tannins and smoky finish is just right with pulled pork and pork ribs. Try: Aphillanthes Villages "3 Cepages" ($23), Domaine Gour De Chaule ($16), Espirit Delas Freres ($10).
Rioja is possibly the best choice for BBQ. This Spanish red made with the tempranillo grape is spicy with great fruit making it a big, bold wine. Rioja can stand up to the assertive flavors of BBQ like brisket, ribs, tri-tip and steaks. Try: Muga Reserva Seleccion Especial ($40), Baron De Ley Reserva ($27), Marques De Riscal Reserva ($17), Vina Santurnia Reserva ($15) or Gran Familia ($10).