So many different kinds of food lend themselves to grilling that picking wines to match can be a challenge. I've got a few guidelines for narrowing the field:
Make It Flavorful Whether full-bodied or light, the wine should be well concentrated. Wimpy wines will disappear. Simple grilled foods allow complex wines to shine, while more elaborate or boldly flavored preparations can overshadow a subtle wine.
Make It Fruity Fruity and even off-dry wines can taste dry and succulent when paired with savory, smoky grilled dishes like barbecue. Just be sure that the wine is sweeter than any added flavors (glazes, fruit salsas, etc.). Sweet food will make a dry wine taste sour.
Make It Red White wines are great with many grilled foods, but when in doubt, I almost always reach for a red or rosé. Chances are the red- or black-fruit character of these wines will give some punch to a smoky dish, and even the modest tannins of a rosé can work wonderfully in counteracting the mild bitterness that comes from charring.
10 top bottles
2000 Dr. Konstantin Frank Johannisberg Riesling ($11) Few other wineries in the world could create such an aromatic, vibrant Riesling at such a low price. Pair this New York wine with grilled shrimp or fish.
2000 J.C. Pichot Vouvray Domaine le Peu de la Moriette ($12) The flowery, melony notes of this polished (and well-priced) white wine from the Loire Valley of France make it a perfect match with grilled chicken.
2000 Bernardus Sauvignon Blanc ($20) This California winery in the Carmel Valley produces a lively Bordeaux-style white that strikes just the right balance between refinement and ripe fruit. Great with grilled food topped with sweet or spicy salsas.
2001 Bonny Doon Vin Gris de Cigare ($11) This dry California rosé has a lively, light, wild-berry character but offers enough substance to pair with a wide variety of grilled foods, from shrimp to burgers.
2000 Château de Fesles Anjou Vieilles Vignes ($12) Produced with grapes from 35-year-old vines, this medium-weight Cabernet Franc combines mellow tannins and luscious, dark, red-fruit flavors. It's fantastic paired with grilled pork, chicken or even tuna steak.
1999 Rapitalà Nuhar ($10) Made predominantly from the local Nero d'Avola grape, this medium-bodied Sicilian red carries a hint of spices and a dried-berry flavor. A wine for red meat and sausages.
2000 Fairview Goats do Roam ($10) Like its model, Côtes-du-Rhône, this fruity, easy-drinking South African red is a blend of several grapes. It's a terrific partner to all kinds of smoky meats.
2000 Louis Jadot Château des Jacques Moulin-à-Vent ($19) From a single estate in arguably the best Beaujolais subdistrict, this elegant, medium-rich red is truly the quintessential grill wine.
2000 Dry Creek Heritage Clone Zinfandel ($15) This succulent, superrich Sonoma wine has an almost candied, wild raspberry character.
1999 Beringer Napa Valley Merlot ($26) Packed with juicy plum flavors, this rich, concentrated red would be fabulous with grilled lamb chops.