Just like other countries around the world, Austrians have their own traditions of cooking over an open fire. Whether it’s sausages, steaks, pulled pork, vegetables or fish, the variety of wines from Austrian winemakers are the perfect accompaniment. However, barbecues aren’t just perfect occasions for white wines and rosés – red wines can also come into their own here, too. As a general rule, the more chargrilled the food, or the more heavily seasoned, the more intense the chosen wine should be.
Methods of cooking: direct or indirect heat
How the food is barbecued determines the best wine to go with it. Using indirect heat means cooking food evenly and gently from all sides at a low temperature of up to 150°C, over a longer period of time. Here, more unassuming wines with less tannins and more fruit, such as Zweigelt, Pinot Noir and Sankt Laurent – even slightly chilled – are recommended, depending on the food being served.
Direct heat, on the other hand, involves chargrilling over a high heat for a short period of time. Food is cooked directly over the heat source at a temperature of up to 370°C. This creates intense chargrill aromas that naturally flavour the meat, fish, vegetables or whatever else you’re cooking. Wines with a strong tannin structure, such as dense, wood-matured red wines harmonise perfectly with these aromas, as do white wines with a barrique élevage.
Chilled wines – yes, even reds!
Light white wines are best chilled to a drinking temperature of 6 to 8°C. Denser, wood-matured whites and “cool” reds (e.g. Zweigelt, Sankt Laurent, Blaufränkisch and Blauer Portugieser) are ideally served with barbecued food at around 14°C. Complex, heavier red wines should be served at 18°C or below to best emphasise their finesse.
Rosé, the ultimate all-rounder
For a stunning appearance in the glass and an amazing all-rounder when it comes to pairing, look no further than an Austrian rosé! It can be enjoyed as an aperitif or with meat, fish, barbecued cheese and vegetables. Why not try a Blaufränkisch or Zweigelt rosé? A Schilcher rosé from Weststeiermark also goes well with stronger-flavoured, more heavily seasoned barbecued foods.
The perfect aperitif at any barbecue is a glass of Austrian Sekt. It also pairs wonderfully with fish or crayfish, or can round off a meal alongside the dessert, such as a molten chocolate cake with barbecued fruit.
Sweet wine & orange wine
Orange wine is a great way to start off a barbecue, but it also pairs wonderfully with meats cooked in the smoker, such as pulled pork, or more flavoursome chargrilled vegetables like cauliflower. The perfect time to enjoy sweet wines or Traminer with a little residual sugar is with barbecued fruit, such as pineapple, nectarines or bananas.
The perfect white wine is chosen based on the food’s seasoning. Spicy sauces and marinades are best accompanied by fruity wines such as Riesling with minimal residual sugar, or by white Pinots with a barrique élevage, such as Chardonnay or Pinot Blanc. Rotgipfler also pairs very well with this type of food. A Pinot Blanc from Leithaberg, a medium-bodied Grüner Veltliner from the Wachau or the Traisental, or a Wiener Gemischter Satz DAC are excellent wines to accompany trout or char that have been gently barbecued in foil, or chargrilled crayfish. If herbs are used abundantly to flavour the fish, these are nicely mirrored by the herbal notes of Sauvignon Blanc from Steiermark (Styria).
Denser white wines such as a Weinviertel DAC Reserve, Riesling from the Kremstal or a Morillon (Chardonnay) from Südsteiermark go wonderfully with a classic barbecued sausage. Wood-matured Chardonnays, such as those from Leithaberg, are the best choice for both pulled pork and stronger, oilier fish like carp and catfish.
Red wine: chilled or powerful
When outside temperatures are rising, fruity red wines such as classic Zweigelt, Sankt Laurent, Blaufränkisch or Blauer Portugieser shine through just as well as white wines when they’re chilled to around 14°C. Tannin-rich red wines complement chargrill flavours and harmonise well with lightly seared steaks, barbecued ribs or well-seasoned chargrilled vegetables such as courgette or green garlic. Matured red Reserves served at cellar temperature are the perfect way to round off a barbecue.
Aperitif, food companion, palate cleanser – Austrian Sekt works well with any course. Certified inspection and grapes of 100 % Austrian origin guarantee the quality of Sekt Austria, recognised by the red-white-red striped banderole on the top of the bottle. A glass of Sekt not only pairs superbly with vegetables, fish and crayfish, but also rounds off a dessert nicely, such as a molten chocolate cake with barbecued fruit.
Rosé, sweet or orange wine
Rosé is the ultimate all-rounder at a barbecue: whether as an aperitif or served alongside meat, fish or chargrilled vegetables and cheese. Orange wine goes very well with slow-cooked meat from the low-temperature smoker that has taken on all the delicious smoky flavours. It also pairs perfectly with more flavoursome chargrilled vegetables. A glass of mash-fermented (orange) Traminer also makes for a delightful aperitif with a definite wow factor. Dessert is the last chance for sweet wines to shine, if they haven’t done so already. Barbecued bananas, pineapples and nectarines are best accompanied by a glass of Trockenbeerenauslese or a Traminer with more residual sugar.
Spritzer & low alcohol wine
On hot days, there’s one basic rule: it’s best to avoid wines with a high alcohol content. Good acidity also helps to make wines more refreshing when the weather is warm. A popular aperitif or wine accompaniment that’s enjoyed throughout the summer in Austria is the “G’spritzer”, or spritzer in English. This drink is most refreshing at a ratio of one-third wine to two-thirds sparkling water – known as a “summer spritzer”. Original G’spritzer glasses can be found in the online shop.
One of the more recent barbecue favourites is the pulled pork burger. The meat is cooked in a smoker and often served with flavoursome marinades with smoky barbecue flavours. It pairs well with orange wine and wood-matured Chardonnays. Chilled, fruit-led classic reds, however, are an exciting alternative.
The perfect pairing:
- Orange wine
- Chardonnay, with a heavy use of oak
- Light, fruit-led red wine (e.g. Zweigelt), served chilled
Barbecued short loin
Meat with a low fat content, such as a short loin steak, is best barbecued over a hot flame. It develops very aromatic chargrill flavours at higher temperatures. This cut of meat goes well with tannin-rich red wines matured in barriques, such as Cabernet Sauvignon. If a short loin is cooked whole in the smoker, a glass of Blaufränkisch is the ideal accompaniment.
The perfect pairing:
- Cabernet Sauvignon
Oriental-style vegetables and barbecued cheese
The general rule with vegetables is the more flavoursome they are, and the stronger the seasoning, the more the chosen wine needs to be able to hold its own. A fruity Riesling goes very well with oriental-spiced chargrilled vegetables, while a rosé is a good choice for barbecued cheese.
The perfect pairing:
Dense white wines or lightly chilled, classic reds with an elegant fruitiness taste best with flavoursome, slightly fattier barbecued sausages.
The perfect pairing:
- Dense Grüner Veltliner or Chardonnay
- Fruity red wine, lightly chilled
Foil-baked potatoes and whole cauliflower
Potatoes are one of the more protein-rich vegetables and go best with lighter, fruity red wines. The stronger aroma of cauliflower, which can be cooked whole and served with a sesame sauce, for example, requires a wine that can confidently hold its own, such as a dense white Pinot wine, Sauvignon Blanc or mash-fermented white wine (orange wine).
The perfect pairing:
- Orange wine (e.g. Traminer or Roter Veltliner)
- Sauvignon Blanc Sekt
- Dense Pinot Blanc
What the experts recommend
“When choosing the right wine, the first question you need to ask yourself is whether you’re cooking over direct or indirect heat.”, says double barbecue world champion Adi Matzek, who is not only the author of several barbecue cookbooks but also runs Austria's first barbecue school.
“Tannins and chargrill flavours go very well together,” confirms Michael Grossauer, who deliberately recommends Austrian red and white wines to accompany steaks, ribs and burgers in his “el Gaucho” steak restaurants.
“Elegant, mature Pinot Noirs or Sankt Laurents go perfectly with a tender fillet steak. With grilled Austrian Dry Aged Beef, we like to recommend a wood-aged Rotgipfler as an alternative to red wines,” says Dominik Pongracic, restaurant manager El Gaucho at Josefsbad.
“Austrian white wines go best with local freshwater fish. The delicate flavour of Austrian char is brought out beautifully with a glass of Riesling from the Kamptal or a classic Grüner Veltliner from the Wachau,” recommends Ferdinand Trauttmansdorff from Gut Dornau.