Best Wine for Barbecue Chicken

If you’re a wine lover, chances are you’ve been asked to bring the wine for your next barbecue. But what’s the best choice? If you’re not sure, I have put together this guide on some of the most popular wines for barbecues.

Let’s start with white wines:

Pairing White Wine with Barbecue Chicken

The best way to pair wine with barbecue chicken is by choosing a light-bodied white wine. You want the flavor of the wine to complement the mildness of the meat, rather than overpowering it. Sauvignon Blanc is a good example. I recommend you try one of the following:

Sauvignon Blanc

Bread & Butter North Coast Sauvignon Blanc

This Sauvignon Blanc has bright aromas of lemon zest and hints of tropical fruit, lively flavors with citrus notes followed by a rich texture and a clean finish.

2021 Decoy California Sauvignon Blanc

Aromas of pineapple, lemon, and green apple lead the way for this crisp Sauvignon Blanc. Underneath those fresh scents is a layer of lime zest that adds another exciting dimension to what you taste, which lingers in your mouth long after each sip.

Lieu Dit Sauvignon Blanc 2017

This Sauvignon Blanc has aromas of ripe kiwi, lemon, and lime accented by hints of green apples. The palate is full and creamy with a rich mouthfeel that has balance and crisp acidity.

Pinot Grigio

Barbecue chicken and Pinot Grigio is a classic pairing. The wine is light and crisp, so it easily cuts through the smokey sweetness of the sauce. Pinot Grigio also pairs well because of its refreshing acidity and clean finish.

Here are some great examples:

2021 St. Michael-Eppan San Michele Appiano Pinot Grigio Sudtirol – Alto Adige

This wine has grown in popularity and is appreciated for its freshness, nice acidity, and pleasant, lingering aftertaste. Well worth seeking out.

2021 Pradio Priara Pinot Grigio Friuli Grave

From the Pradio Italian family estate, this Pinot Grigio presents as pale yellow in color. Notes are blended wildflowers and ripe fruit (apple, pear, banana). This wine has a long finish that is fresh and lingering on the palate.

2021 Cantina Zaccagnini Terre di Chieti IGT Pinot Gris

The color is straw yellow with a very pleasant aroma. It has clear fruity notes of pear and green apple, as well as slight hints of aromatic herbs. The taste is dominated by freshness and savoriness; it’s light enough for crisp white fruit but still flavorful enough to appeal to those who prefer something on the sweeter side.

Chardonnay

Pairing Chardonnay with barbecue chicken is a no-brainer. The wine’s rich acidity and buttery texture make it an excellent match for the smoky, sweet flavors of grilled chicken. If you’re looking for a bolder pairing with your grilled chicken, try a chardonnay with some oak aging. Oak barrels impart a smokiness that will complement the barbecue flavors in your meal and make it even more delicious.

I have selected four Chardonnays that you should look out for:

Kendall-Jackson Chardonnay

This vineyard is located in California, and it’s a great place to start your search for a good Chardonnay with crab legs. This wine is made from grapes grown in the Sonoma Valley, where the climate is ideal for growing them. Fermented and aged in French and American oak barrels for richness, toastiness, and complexity.

J. Lohr Chardonnay

This California winery has been making award-winning wines for over 30 years, and this Chardonnay is no exception. They use grapes from their own vineyards in Monterey County, which means that you can be sure the quality is always high. This wine has a rich golden color with notes of citrus and vanilla on the nose.

Ladera Vineyards Chardonnay

This Chardonnay is made from grapes grown in the Santa Lucia Highlands, which is a cool climate area. It’s aged in French oak barrels for about 15 months before being bottled and has notes of vanilla and toasted hazelnuts on the nose.

Hagafen Cellars “Reserve” Napa Valley Chardonnay

Made from grapes grown in Napa Valley. It has a rich golden color with notes of citrus, vanilla, and toasted hazelnuts on the nose. It’s aged for about 18 months in French oak barrels before being bottled.

Best Red Wines with Barbecue Chicken

It’s not just about white wines though. When pairing wine and barbecue chicken, some of the best options include light-bodied reds. These wines are generally best with spicy barbecue sauces. The acidity and tannins in a light-bodied red can help cut through the fat and spice of these sauces, creating a harmonious pairing experience for you and your guests.

Good examples such as a Pinot Noir, Merlot, or Zinfandel will pair well with barbecue chicken. Choose one of the following to go with your barbecue chicken:

Pinot Noir

2016 Domaine Lecheneaut Les Pruliers

This is towards the more expensive end of the price range but no doubt this is an exceptional wine. Les Pruliers has a strong color. The wine offers aromas of fresh red fruit, wild prunes, and licorice. As it ages, it adds depth and roundness. It has aromas of cocoa, and smoked meat.

2019 Fanny Sabre Bourgogne Rouge

More affordable is the Fanny Sabre Bourgogne Rouge. This is an organic pinot noir that’s delicate, easy to drink, and naturally delicious. It has a fresh, crunchy, summer pudding fruit flavor with crisp acidity and just lip-smacking moreishness. And because it’s low in sulfur, it’s great for summer or winter drinking.

2018 Corazza Pinot Nero

At the lower end of the price range is the Pinot Nero. This is a unique wine from Friuli, a region in northeastern Italy. It’s made from the pinot noir grape and is unlike other pinot noirs you might be used to. It’s light, bright, and easy to drink.

Merlot

Mayacamas Mt. Veeder Napa Valley Merlot 2019

This mountainside Napa red, from the historic estate Mayacamas, has 5% cabernet franc in the blend that seems to lift the herbal notes on the nose. Bright blueberry fruit is balanced by savory mushroom and pencil-lead flavors that are brilliantly held by the acidity and fine firm tannins that will allow this to age.

Arietta 2019 Merlot “Hudson” Carneros Napa

The 2019 Merlot Hudson Vineyard is full of dark fruit, chocolate, and other savory notes that add complexity to the wine. The wine has a fruity bouquet, with aromas of fresh blueberries and raspberries mixed with vanilla and oak.

Château Lyonnat Emotion, Lussac Saint-Emilion, 2016

The wine’s deep and intense ruby color is accented by a powerful nose with aromas of black fruits, blackcurrant, and darker berries. Notes of toasty oak lend complexity to an already complex bouquet. 

The wine’s aroma and flavor are bold, yet elegant. The woodsy scent of truffles lingers on the palate after each sip is swallowed.

Zinfandel

Journeyman Wines, San Lorenzo ‘The Pearl’ Old Vine Red (Alexander Valley)

A floral bouquet with notes of tobacco and anise. This is a bold, full-bodied red. It has rich flavors of chocolate, with dark fruits and pepper. Velvet smooth mouthfeel and a tannic finish. Let it breathe before serving.

Hartford Family Winery Hartford Dina’s Vineyard Zinfandel

Hartford Russian River Valley Zinfandel presents aromas of ripe plum, blackberry, and black cherry. White pepper and allspice add complexity to this wine’s fruity bouquet. A burst of blueberry, raspberry, nutmeg, and chocolate flavors leads to a long-lasting finish.

Carlisle Papera Ranch Zinfandel 2020

Another excellent Zinfandel from Russian River, California. Ruby-red in color. On the nose, it is bright cherry with aromas of blackberry and raspberry with notes of vanilla and tobacco. It is medium-full-bodied and very smooth on the palate. 

Rosé

If you have a sweet barbecue sauce, Rosé is an excellent choice. It’s a lighter-bodied wine that can stand up to the sweetness of the sauce without getting cloying. If your sauce has more spice or saltiness than sugar, try a fruity rosé instead. The fruit flavors will pop among the spices and salts.

If your sauce is white (meaning it contains no tomatoes and has been cooked down with little or no sugar), choose dry rosés. They’ll have enough acidity to cut through all those savory flavors without overwhelming them with tannins.

Finally, if it’s got some heat but not much sweetness or saltiness at all, go for something in between: semi-dry rosés are just as good at cutting through any richness as their drier cousins but will still give off enough flavor from their fruit varieties to keep things interesting on the palate.

I recommend you try one of the following Rosés:

Rumor Rosé (Provence, France)

This is a very elegant, drinkable blush pink rosé. It has light red berry fruit and sharp citrus aromas, with a crisp, dry refreshing finish. It pairs with cured meats, fish, pasta, salads, and shellfish.

Sonoma-Cutrer Rosé of Pinot Noir (California)

This Pinot Noir blush from the Russian River Valley is a welcome change from the standard Grenache-based rosés you are probably used to. It has a bright acidity with hints of red berry fruits, pear, and stone fruit flavors. 

Whispering Angel Rosé (Provence, France)

This is an award-winning benchmark dry rose from Chateau d’EsclansinProvence.  It has notes of strawberry, raspberry, and peach with refreshing citrus and a smooth, dry finish.  Goes very well with fish dishes.

Go Bold when it’s Cold!

When the weather’s cold, a bolder wine is best. In this case, you want a fuller-bodied wine with good tannins and acidity. Cabernet Sauvignon or Syrah are both excellent choices and can stand up to the bold flavors of your barbecue chicken. One of these will keep you warm on a cold night:

Cabernet Sauvignon

Substance ‘Cs’ Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

From the winery itself, “Classic Cabernet Sauvignon. Currant, blackberry, cigar box with touches of chocolate, cedar, and pencil lead. Full flavored & just so damn good. I should raise the price!”

Château Lynch-BagesPauillac (Grand Cru Classé) 2016

It exhibits a deep red color with notes of dark fruit, cassis, blackcurrants, and a distinctive hint of mint. On the palate, it is full in body with ripe tannins and cassis throughout. The finish is long.

Flat Top Hills Cabernet Sauvignon

This is a rich, full-bodied Cabernet Sauvignon. It is distinctly dark fruit on the palate with cocoa and vanilla notes. It has gentle spices like nutmeg and cassis. The finish is smooth, long, and velvety.

Syrah/Shiraz

Calcareous Reserve Syrah 2020, Paso Robles

From the winery. “Aged in 40% deeply toasted French barrels for 18 months, our Estate Syrah is made to showcase the depth and power of the varietal from our soil. Full of juicy blackberry, dark cocoa, and tar mingling with rich fully ripe tannin, this massive wine is built for marbled rib eye and slow-smoked pork shoulder. It should age exquisitely for 12+ years.”    

Lewis Cellars Alec’s Blend 2018

A great wine to pair with. Flavors of black and red fruits with black pepper. Notes of vanilla, and chocolate with good acidity. Blended 57% Syrah, 28% Merlot, 14% Cabernet Sauvignon with the rest Cabernet Franc.

Seppeltsfield 2018 Shiraz (Barossa Valley)

You can’t have a list of great Shiraz without a Barossa Valley and this is a cracker. It is a bold red with a fruity bouquet of dark cherry and blackberry with hints of oak, vanilla, and coffee. Acidity is good with medium tannins.  Highly recommended.

Conclusion

When choosing wines for your barbecue chicken, think about the seasoning, cooking method, and flavor profile. The best wines are those that will complement the meal and not overpower it. The wine should be able to stand up against the spice, heat of the grill, and seasonings such as garlic and herbs.

Also, consider the time of year and the type of wine you plan to serve. For example, heavier reds are generally best for winter barbecues or evening meals in cold weather.

If your barbecue is during the summer months and you are using a lighter dish such as barbecued chicken with a tomato-based sauce, then a crisp white wine from France (such as Sauvignon Blanc) would pair best with it.

If you are using sweet barbecue sauces with your chicken, then Rosé is a good match. This is my favorite. It’s just so drinkable.

Want a simple recipe for Barbecue Chicken? It doesn’t get any better than Amanda Anne’s Favorite Barbecue Chicken

If you liked this article, please check out my others, such as the Best Wine with Camembert and Best Wine with Beef Burgers.