The Best Wine For Burgers

The Best Wine For Burgers

by McWilliam's Wines, 31 July 2017

We’re taking a fresh approach to burger pairings, because today a “burger” can be so much more than beef between some buns. Whether yours is seared tuna, a fresh portobello mushroom, or the juicy, beefy classic, we’ve got the perfect vinos to match.

Veggie Burgers

Most veggie burgers are a melange of grains, legumes, and vegetables to create the texture of meat—some more successfully than others—but what makes them tricky to pair with wine isn’t the ingredients, it’s the fat content.

Fatty toppings like melty cheese or aioli all kind of help, but veggie burgers are still generally lean. Without much fat to smooth out the wine, this means the best pairing has medium tannins at most. It should play up the earth flavour of the patties without making you pucker.

The best wines for vegetarian burgers are Chardonnay and Tempranillo, which add body and texture to the pairing equation without intense acidity or too much tannin.

Chardonnay, especially creamy examples from Australia. Their full body (think cream instead of skim milk) makes vegetarian burgers feel richer and more satisfying, while lemon and golden apple flavours contribute a fresh liveliness.

If you want red, Tempranillo plays up the earthy spice of veggie burgers, especially ones studded with black beans, lentils, or shredded beets. These wines are known for spicy characteristics like pepper, cocoa, leather, coffee, and even tobacco. These aromas and flavours accent the savoury, spicy burgers without overpowering the flavours with too much oak or pucker-inducing tannin.

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Turkey or Chicken Burgers

The “heart-healthy” burgers of the ‘90s are back and (thankfully) with more flavour than ever before. Burgers with a poultry base may cut calories, but with the right wine pairing, a turkey burgers can make you forget all about cows.

The trick when pairing with these lower-fat, milder burgers is to choose a wine that’s light bodied but not delicate. That way, the wine will stand up to bold toppings, but won’t overpower a simple patty. Pinot Grigio and Pinot Noir are ideal wines for turkey and chicken burgers.

Pinot Grigio produces light to medium bodied white wines characterised by an aromatic, crisp and long palate, with a lingering spiciness and clean refreshing finish. These add a fantastic bright contrast to cheesy, BBQ burgers and bring out the herbs (like rosemary and thyme) used in many poultry patties.

Pinot Noir is eternally versatile, with low tannins and a light body that won’t flatten the flavour of poultry burgers. On the flip side, Pinots can have heft and earth that are heavenly with sautéed mushrooms, funky blue cheeses, and smoky bacon.

Wines that combine flavour and finesse? These are a win-win.

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Fish Burgers

Tuna and salmon burgers are light and fresh—even when fried! These sea-burgers are best with wines that act like a squeeze of lemon, livening up the filet with bright acidity and adding contrast to rich toppings like fresh avocado, crispy onion strings or creamy slaw.

A Rosé pairing brings light body and crisp acidity to the table. The lightness matches the weight of the burger to create a cohesive feeling on the palate. Plus, that bright acidity acts like a squeeze of lemon with the fish and leaving your palate refreshed.

Forget the old school rules and pairing wine and fish; a fruity low-tannin red like Pinot Noir is also a winner when your burger is surf instead of turf. It won’t result in the unpleasant metallic aftertaste that more bold reds can have.

The plum and wild berry flavours of these light reds enhance fatty fish like tuna or salmon. Especially if your burger has an Asian twist—like teriyaki sauce, grilled fruit, or ginger—these reds positively sing.

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Beef Burgers

Of course there’s nothing quite like the classic hamburger, grilled to perfection and bursting with beefy flavour. For once, it’s a good idea to choose a wine that’s more tannic than your easy-drinking standby red. Firm tannins to counteract the fattiness of ground beef, and the beef softens the tannins on your palate.

You have a lot of wine pairing options here. Robust reds like Cabernet and Syrah are ideal with beef burgers because they contribute those big tannins. They can also contribute intense fruit flavours and spicy and smoky aromas from oak aging.

Those fruit flavours—look for plum, blackberry, cocoa, and red cherry—highlight the sweet and salty elements of favourite burger toppings like crispy bacon, BBQ sauce, sauteed mushrooms and even salty cheeses. In essence, you’re pairing big food with big wine, and that’s a recipe for success.

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This is an edited version of a story that first appeared on Vivino.


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Since 1877, when founder Samuel McWilliam first planted vines on the banks of the Murray River in New South Wales, the McWilliam family have produced six consecutive generations of exceptional winemakers.

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