From Chile to Japan, the grill is a cook's tool of choice worldwide. So it seems appropriate to ask: what makes a wine great with grilled foods across an international spectrum? Four factors in the wine are especially important: acidity, to cut through spicy, smoky flavors; boldness, to stand up to them; spiciness, to mirror them; and fruitiness, to cushion them.
A wine needn't have all four of these attributes to pair well with grilled foods, but one or more will increase the chances of a good marriage. Here are eight great grill mates from around the world.
E. Guigal Condrieu 2002 (Condrieu, Rhône Valley, France), $38. Exotic honeysuckle, tropical fruit, and nut flavors make this Viognier fascinating with Thai, Indian, and Indonesian dishes.
Fresco Extra Dry Sparkling Wine by Chandon (Argentina), $12. With its slightly exotic notes and persistent bubbles, this Argentinean sister of France's Moët & Chandon and California's Domaine Chandon is great with spicy appetizers.
Nautilus Estate Sauvignon Blanc 2002 (Marlborough, New Zealand), $17. A fabulous interplay of spicy green peppercorn and tropical pineapple and mango flavors.
Pierre Sparr Pinot Gris Reserve 2001 (Alsace, France), $15. Bold, lush, and creamy, with peach and almond flavors and notes of citrus ― perfect for Indian or Southeast Asian seafood.
Bodegas Agapito Rico Carchelo 2002 (Jumilla, Spain), $8. Very fruity, with deep, dark berry flavors and a chocolaty finish. Fabulous with hamburgers.
Condado de Haza 2000 (Ribera del Duero, Spain), $16. A powerhouse, with rugged blackberry, black plum, and licorice flavors and an almost syrupy texture. Made for meaty short ribs.
Domaine le Sang des Cailloux Vacqueyras 2001 (Vacqueyras, Southern Rhône Valley), $25. Le sang des cailloux means "the blood of the stones" ― fitting for this deep, dark, spicy wine with hints of chocolate, espresso, and leather. Red meat required.
Stonehaven Limestone Coast Shiraz 1999 (Australia), $13. A big, fleshy Shiraz is always a shoo-in with grilled meats. This one is rich with cocoa, vanilla, and plush blackberry flavors, with a nice grip of tannin. Try it with lamb or beef.