Burger Buddies

I’ll admit it: I rarely drink wine with grilled burgers. But now I’m a convert. As I experimented with local beef, I found certain red wines were fantastic matches, especially paired with a burger that’s got gourmet toppings—artisan cheeses, garlicky sauces and spicy greens.

Somewhat surprisingly, I found that the wines I love with grilled steaks—Napa Cabernet, Australian Shiraz and Zinfandel don’t work as well with burgers. It’s not so much the grape varietal, but how the wine is made: a rich, oaky Cab just seems to ride over the top of a hamburger. Pinot Noir, my favorite grape, seems out of place and, frankly, boring.

For the beef lover’s burger I recommend light- and medium-bodied reds with a pure fruit component that aren’t overly ripe, confected or oaky. In other words, a good, honest wine that’s not trying to wow you with its size. Temperature and glassware are important here—serve these at sixty degrees and drink out of stemless glasses.

Sattler St. Laurent
Burgenland, Austria, 2007, $20
Smoky, dark flavors—like a combination of pancetta and refreshingly tart blackberries. This is particularly good with grass-fed beef.

Terra Rosa Malbec
Argentina, 2007, $11
In my opinion, the best Malbec for your money. Why? Exceptional balance and pure dark flavors with a whisper of sweetness that loves the mushroom burger.

Solabal “Crianza”
Rioja, Spain, 2005, $20
Lush, seamless fruit, but not jammy or cooked. An 8.95 on the smoothness scale. My choice paired with a blue cheeseburger.

Zaca Mesa “Z Cuvée”
Santa Ynez Valley, 2006, $26
Perhaps the finest Côtes du Rhone style from California. Intense and sappy, but without any noticeable tannin or excessive oak. A great choice for garlicky burgers.

Michael Kwas is wine director at L’Etoile restaurant. He writes this column monthly.


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