What Kind of Wine With That Burger?

Believe it or not, there are some winemakers who take offense when someone suggests that one of their wines would match perfectly with a hamburger.

Not a whole lot, mind you. Certainly not a majority. But enough that when we’re offering food pairing suggestions for the various wines featured by Vinesse, we tend to shy away from mentioning a burger—even a nice, thick, juicy one, made from the finest beef.

The attitude is befuddling to me, especially when you consider that Americans consume 48 billion burgers per year. That’s about three per week per person. If you made a product—any kind of product—wouldn’t you love it if you could sell one for each hamburger sold?

Suggest that their wine be enjoyed with a premium steak, and the very same vintner will smile and nod his head in approval. Same kind of meat, from the same animal, often with a very similar flavor as a burger…and it’s an “approved” pairing partner.

Thankfully, as I mentioned, burger snobs are a minority among winemakers, and perhaps the greatest non-snobs of all are the nice folks at Sutter Home Family Vineyards in California’s Napa Valley.

Back in 1990, just as grilling season was about to kick off, colorful displays were erected in supermarkets across the country. They included bottles of Sutter Home wines, various burger condiments and tear-off entry forms for the very first Build a Better Burger contest.

The first winner was a retired Army colonel named Jim Pleasant, who had concocted a burger with Italian cooking influences. Every year since, “BBB” has captured the imaginations of backyard cooks, and some truly impressive burger recipes have been introduced to the public.

This year, 10 finalists will be flown in for a cook-off, and the winner will receive $100,000.

I can sense some of the burger snobs mellowing even as I type…

For further information on the 2013 Build a Better Burger event, click here.

And if you’re wondering what to serve with that burger you plan to cook this weekend, here are three things to keep in mind:

  1. Avoid strong-flavored wines. Your burger, even if you don’t load it up with spices, has plenty of flavor on its own.
  2. Keep the burger simple. Every time you add an ingredient between the buns, you add another flavor or flavors, which complicates the pairing.
  3. Use high-quality beef. You don’t need to spring for Kobe, but the butcher in your market’s meat department can steer you toward beef that’s miles ahead of that typically used by fast-food restaurants.

And the type of wine? A rosé—almost regardless of the grape variety—is a great choice. So is a fruit-forward Zinfandel. Merlot also can work very nicely, and so can Sangiovese.

A good burger with a good glass of wine is hard to beat for a satisfying, easy-to-prepare meal. With only a week remaining in National Hamburger Month (https://www.facebook.com/NationalHamburgerMonth), and with grilling season upon us, it’s time to show those burger snobs what they’re missing.

Posted in Food and Wine Pairings/Recipes
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