What to pair with every kind of backyard burger.
What wines goes best with a burger? The internet trolls will gleefully pile on with “wine sucks; drink a beer” comments, but hey, who wants advice from a troll? Let’s suppose you simply love burgers and love wine: That’s about a bazillion of us right there. Let’s suppose you also want your wine and your burger to taste mind-blowingly great together, instead of just really, really good. See? Now even the trolls are thinking, “yum.”
However, not all burgers are created equal. The crucial thing to consider when it comes to pairing them with wine, even more than flavor, is fat. The mouth-coating lusciousness of a Pat LaFrieda ground chuck–brisket–short rib burger—with its 17 grams of fat—asks for a very different wine than a vegan Boca Burger and its abstemious 1/2 gram. Both may go great with a red, but a burger like LaFrieda’s—rich and beefy—wants some oomph: big flavors, powerful tannins, structure (French Malbecs, Italian Aglianicos, Bordeaux-style blends). The Boca prefers lighter, more delicate wines: Pinot, Barbera, and so on. So with that in mind, here’s a by-the-richness guide to some perfect burger pairings.
Lean & Light Burgers
Lean ground turkey breast or veggie burgers call for lighter wines. Worth nothing: Plant-based burgers vary wildly in fat content. If yours weighs in at over 10 grams per patty, choose a more robust wine.
2017 Matthew Fritz North Coast Pinot Noir ($15)
Finding good, under-$20 Pinot is a tough quest, but this gentle, cherry-scented wine from Napa winemaker Matt Bonanno proves the search can succeed.
2016 Masseria Li Veli Passamante Salice Salentino ($14)
Southern Italy’s Puglia has a sunny warmth that produces fruit-laden wines with soft tannins. This was a surprise standout with the veggie burger at our tasting.
2017 Marenco Bassina Barbera D’asti ($20)
Italy’s Barbera grape, with its delicate tannic structure, is an ideal wine for low-fat burger options. This bottling is aged in stainless steel rather than oak, keeping it fresh and vibrant.
2015 Domaine Houchart Côtes De Provence Rouge ($15)
In addition to an exemplary rosé, Houchart also makes this bright Grenache-based blend. Fun fact: In the 1800s, Cézanne used to hang out at this Provençal property.
Drink these with your standard beef patties (we tested these with an 80/20 blend) and those made from regular ground turkey (typically a richer blend of white and dark meat).
2014 Finca Valpiedra Cantos De Valpiedra Rioja ($20)
This medium-bodied Spanish red offers plenty of sweet oak notes together with red cherry fruit; it’s a good candidate for serving lightly chilled at a cookout.
2016 Eberle Winery Vineyard Selection Cabernet Sauvignon ($25)
Gary Eberle deftly captures Paso Roble’s climate: sweet blackberry fruit with just enough structure to keep the wine from getting flabby.
2017 Zolo Malbec ($12)
Argentine Malbecs are generally fruitier than French versions, but they’re still substantial—ideal for beef, in other words (which Argentina is also known for). This plums–and–black pepper bottling is a serious value.
2017 Milbrandt Vineyards Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($17)
A great Cabernet value, this black currant–y red comes from a family that’s been farming in Washington State for four generations.
Big & Bold Burgers
Bacon and cheese, chili burgers, burgers slathered in mayo, or, you know, foie gras–filled burgers—when you’re going all-out, these are the wines you want.
2016 Clos De Los Siete ($20)
Superstar winemaker Michel Rolland consults around the world, but for his own wine from Argentina—a toasty, chewy Malbec-based blend—he sticks to a much more affordable level.
2016 Crocus L’atelier Malbec ($20)
This extravagant black-purple wine, full of plush tannins and plummy fruit, is the result of a joint venture between Cahors native Bertrand Vigouroux and California winemaker Paul Hobbs.
2016 Chateau Lagrezette Purple Malbec ($17)
Despite the Argentine versions flooding store shelves, France is Malbec’s home, particularly the Cahors region. This white pepper–y bottling, full of velvety tannins, is a great introduction.
2017 Mastroberardino Mastro Aglianico ($19)
This tastes like a walk through a forest—wild berries, dry underbrush, fennel fronds. It’s a polished version of a rustic Italian red, with plenty of fine, grippy tannins on the finish.