With all of the planning and preparation that goes into throwing a summer soirée or backyard BBQ, choosing a wine to serve your guests might seem like an insignificant task (it’s vino, after all, how could it be bad?). But in a world where we pair wine with even the most obscure treats, like Girl Scout cookies and Easter candy, perhaps it’s worth taking a few minutes to see how your summer veggie dishes might be enhanced by a savory white or light red.
For guidance, we tapped Andrea Morris, the 27-year-old sommelier at buzzy N.Y.C.-based vegetarian restaurant Nix. “Over all, vegetables tend to be higher in acid, so it’s really important to look for a savory note from the wine to complement your dish,” says Morris, who has previously worked at renowned spots like Eleven Madison Park and Jean-Georges. “Alsatian wines are great for pairing with vegetables—they tend to have a slightly bitter note on the end and that usually goes really well with a variety of green vegetables we see popping up at farmers' markets. From Pinot Gris to Chasselas, the wine possibilities from this region are endless and you can get super geeky about it, if you want. Vegetable dishes tend to have a spice component as well, and these wines are great for matching that heat.”
Below, Morris gives us the scoop on what wines pair best with specific BBQ-friendly veggies dishes.
Asparagus and Artichoke
“Asparagus and artichoke are two veggies that are generally difficult to pair with wine because they contain a compound that can make dry wines taste sweet,” says Morris. “My solution is to choose a wine that is very mineral-y and savory so that it can maintain its refreshing quality despite this. White wines from Portugal—such as Filipa Pato's Bical and Arinto blend from Beiras ($17, chelseawinevault.com)—fit the bill nicely with lots of texture, a slight marine or bitter almond note, and citrusy fruit. As an added bonus, Portugese wines tend to have amazing values across the board, so you can bring a few bottles to share while you munch on that grilled asparagus.”
Veggie Pasta Dishes and Portobello Burgers
“It seems like every good backyard barbecue now also has a summer vegetable pasta dish or a great grilled portobello burger. The Pineau d’Aunis from Domaine de Belliviere ($42; winfieldflynn.com) is a perfect light red that compliments variations on both of those dishes and has enough structure to make people who want to drink red wine in the summer feel satisfied, without fighting the vegetables’ flavors,” explains Morris. “It starts like a Beaujolais, and then the structure and funkiness comes out and works really well with the spice of black pepper and various types of cheeses that might be in pasta and burger options.”
“Red wine with potato salad might be an unexpected pairing for some, but I think that the Dolcetto from Idlewild in Mendocino County ($28; somegoodwine.com) is a perfect example of how well it can actually work,” says Morris. “The wine has great structure and deals well with all the different flavor profiles the dish can have.”