As the days get a bit longer and warmer, attention starts to turn to outdoor cooking and that beloved American icon, the grill. And nothing says “grilling” than the good old hamburger.
While it seems that everyone has their own particular way to prepare the summertime staple, far too often the accompanying beverage is a mass produced pilsner. As the warmer weather approaches, now is the time instead to stock up on wine that will pair nicely with those delectable patties.
While the obvious choice for some might be the ubiquitous Cabernet Sauvignon, a better choice might be a new world Syrah/Shiraz. They often exhibit a more unrestrained fruity approach and have the stuffing to combat the smokiness imparted by the grill.
If the burgers in question feature lamb, turkey, or pork, a lighter style wine, such as Sangiovese, Tempranillo, or even Pinot Noir would pair rather well. Again, the new world versions of these wines will have the fruit necessary to cut through the mesquite.
In the end, though, the best option is Zinfandel, the all-American variety that will compliment any burger, no matter the species. While there are certainly numerous Zins out there (many of them inexpensive and uninspired), beginning wine lovers need only remember their three R’s: Ravenswood, Rosenblum, and Ridge. Each winery produces a number of different Zinfandels with enough variation to satisfy most budgets. Here are three that are readily available:
2011 Ravenswood Vintner’s Blend Old Vine Zinfandel ($10) Ripe berries and a bit of spice, most of the fun here is right up front. It does not have the tannins of the other two, but it does not carry their heavier price tags either.
2009 Rosenblum Cellars Zinfandel, Sonoma County ($20) 100% Zin with a hearty 15.0% alcohol, this has plenty of fruit and a hint of oak. There is enough tannin on the back end to help cut through the burger, even with a healthy slice of cheddar.
2009 Ridge Lytton Springs ($30) A blend of several varieties, but predominantly Zin. Dark red fruit with a rich texture and firm tannins. This wine would benefit from a 30-60 minute (or more) decant. Also, look for the Ridge Pagani Ranch, which has all the flavor and a bit more character.