Grape Wine Pairing Picks for Memorial Day

It’s hard to argue with the restorative power of enjoying a glass (or two) of wine on a warm day along lip-smacking BBQ fare. From creamy white wines to spicy, berry forward reds, the right glass can make it easier to forget — even for a little while — that traditional Memorial Day beach and backyard parties are a no-go as New York City continues to fight the novel coronavirus. Whether you're just making kebabs on a grill pan beside a sunny window, or cooking up burgers in the backyard, here are our tips for wines that will fire up your holiday barbecue.

custom image

Bold Reds

Tannins and rich meats complement each other, so bold, powerful reds are tailor-made for hefty, flavorful meat preparations such as ribs, steaks, and burgers. Look to Cabernet Sauvignon from California, Washington, or Bordeaux, Nebbiolo from Northern Italy, or Argentine Malbec or Shiraz. If adding a hot or spicy sauce, consider a California Zinfandel or spicy Australian Shiraz with bright red fruit, lively acidity, and spice notes that can hold their own against a tangy sauce.

Cantina Bianchi Ghemme 2009
Three Wine Company Old Vine Zinfandel 2018
Bodega DiamAndes "Perlita" Malbec 2017

Light Reds

Lighter and smoked meats, such as pork or hanger steak, and heartier fish, such as salmon, bluefish, or tuna, sing alongside light reds such as Pinot Noir, Gamay, Portuguese Baga, and even Blaufrankisch. In these pairings, the rich flavors are complemented by ripe, snappy red fruit without being weighed down.

Marcillet Hautes-Cotes-du-Beaune 2017
Niepoort Nat Cool "Drink Me" Baga 2019
Aha Wines 'Bebame' El Dorado Gamay-Cabernet Franc 2015

Bright, Zesty Whites

The mouthwatering acidity, apple, pear, citrus, and floral notes in Sauvignon Blanc make it a great overall partner for grilled or blackened chicken, fish, and veggies. Chardonnays from Burgundy, California, or even Washington State are bold enough to stand up to fattier fish like salmon, tuna, or trout. Mushroom burgers? Earthy, crisp Chenin Blanc is ideal.

Julien Baillard Montmains Premier Cru 2015
Familia Valdelana Agnus Malvasia 2019
Skyline Wine Cellars Artisan White 2017


Served very cool, cross the boundaries between white and red wines and present a great solution when craving something with more structure and depth than white wine, but less body and richness than a red. Rosés easily match smoky and vegetal notes in veggie burgers, potato salad, grilled poultry and fish, and even grilled cheese! From the ethereal pink wines of Provence to more complex roses from Bandol or Tavel, there are as many styles of rosé as there are approaches to picnic fare, and something to please everyone.

La Bastide Blanche Bandol Rosé 2019
Birgit Wiederstein "Rosa" Rosé 2019
Terrassen Cellars Blaufrankisch Rosé 2018


The truth is, bubbles have the fruit, texture, and acidity to go fork-to-fork with any grilled or fried food (we love it with fried chicken!). Light-bodied and crushable, Cava, Prosecco or French Cremants are budget-friendly and great for drinking alone or in a spritz.

Bailly Lapierre Cremant de Bourgogne NV
Agusti Torello Mata Cava Brut Reserva 2016
Regine Vino Spumante Rosato NV