A sizzling combination – barbecues & Austrian wine

door | 18 aug 2022 | Internationaal

© Austrian Wine / Blickwerk Fotografie

It wouldn’t be summer without a barbecue! Having friends and family around for a barbecue is as much a part of the summer months as a refreshing spritzer. Experts agree that the diverse wines from Austria pair excellently with sausages, steaks and pulled pork, as confirmed by barbecue world champion Adi Matzek. However, barbecues aren’t just perfect occasions for white wines and rosés – red wines can come into their own here, too.

The tradition of roasting meat over an open flame is as old as mankind. Every country has its own traditions when it comes to cooking over a fire, and Austria is no exception. Barbecuing is a well-loved tradition – but there are also traditions when it comes to choosing the wine to drink. One of the basic rules for pairing a wine with barbecues is that the more chargrilled the food or the stronger the seasoning, the more intense the chosen wine should be.

The art of barbecuing and smoking. Direct or indirect heat?

“As someone from Lower Austria, we’re naturally very fond of wine,” confirms two-time barbecue world champion Adi Matzek, smiling. Adi has not only authored several barbecue cookbooks but also runs Austria’s first barbecue school. He has one basic rule: “When choosing the right wine, the first question you need to ask yourself is whether you’re cooking over direct or indirect heat.” When using indirect heat, the food is cooked evenly and gently from all sides at a lower temperature and for a longer period of time. Barbecuing over a direct heat, on the other hand, keeps cooking times short and food is chargrilled quickly. The food is cooked directly above the heat source at temperatures of up to 370°C. This creates intense chargrill aromas that naturally flavour the meat, fish or whatever else you’re cooking. In general, wines with a distinctive tannin structure go very well with foods cooked using this method. “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.The more tender or low-fat the meat, the more subtle the wine should be. Wines with fewer tannins and more fruit such as Zweigelt, Pinot Noir and Sankt Laurent are a good choice. “The classic barbecue method is to use indirect heat to cook large pieces of meat slowly at lower temperatures of up to 150°C. Smoke is often used, too,” says Adi Matzek. When using a smoking method, the food is cooked at lower temperatures by the smoke from the hardwood fire.

Tips for choosing wine for a barbecue

From aperitifs to the dessert, Austrian wine can be enjoyed right throughout a laid-back barbecue. A Sekt from Austria is an excellent drink to welcome guests. Sekt Austria, recognised by the red-white-red striped banderole on the top of the bottle, is guaranteed to be of high quality due to certified inspection and grapes of 100% Austrian origin.

When outside temperatures are rising, chilled fruity red wines such as classic Zweigelt, Sankt Laurent, Blaufränkisch or Blauer Portugieser shine through just as well as white wines. The ideal drinking temperature for light whites is 6 to 8°C and about 14°C for “cool” reds. Complex, heavier red wines should be served at 18°C or below to best emphasise their finesse.

Rosé is an excellent all-rounder for a barbecue evening. It can be enjoyed as an aperitif or with meat, fish, barbecued cheese or vegetables. Try a Blaufränkisch rosé from Rosalia or Mittelburgenland, or a Zweigelt from Carnuntum. Schilcher from Weststeiermark is a native Austrian rosé that has a zesty structure and is best paired with more flavoursome and spicier dishes.

And remember, it’s always important to avoid serving wines with a high alcohol content when barbecuing on hot days.

A picture shows a person holding a glass of Austrian wine while barbecuing. A picture shows one person pouring another person a glass of Austrian wine.
It’s all in the seasoning Sauces and marinades add a lot of flavour to a barbecue, and these also need to be considered when choosing the right wine. Spicy flavours can be harmonised well with fruity wines. Wachau Rieslings with a little residual sugar are an excellent choice, as are Rotgipfler and white Pinot varieties such as Chardonnay and Pinot Blanc that have been aged in barriques. Smoky sauces or barbecue spices are complemented well by dense red wines with notes of smoked bacon, such as Blaufränkisch from Mittelburgenland or spicy red wine cuvée blends from Carnuntum. Garlic, which is popular when barbecuing, harmonises well with fruit-led red wines such as Merlot and Pinot Noir.

Meat: sausages, beef and pork

When hosting a barbecue, sausages tend to be the first thing to be thrown on the grill. Sausages, usually high in fat and high in flavour, go well with a chilled, fruity red wine produced from the varieties mentioned above or a denser white wine such as a Weinviertel DAC Reserve, a Kremstal Riesling or a Morillon (Chardonnay) from Südsteiermark.

Pulled pork is cooked in a smoker and often served with flavoursome marinades with smoky barbecue aromas. It harmonises wonderfully with orange wine (mash-fermented white wine), such as a Traminer, with wood-matured Chardonnays, such as one from Leithaberg, as well as with chilled, fruit-led red wines.Beef steaks with a higher fat content are usually seared quickly on a high heat, giving them a very aromatic chargrill flavour. They go well with tannin-rich red wines matured in barriques, such as Cabernet Sauvignon. A Blaufränkisch from Eisenberg is full of character and pairs perfectly with barbecued short loin – either as a steak or cooked whole in the smoker.

Fish and shellfish from Austria

Austria isn’t just famous for the diversity of its wines. It also boasts a delicious variety of fish and shellfish that are full of flavour and reflect their regional origin. Locally caught fish are wonderful on the grill and considered extremely versatile in terms of wine pairing. They generally harmonise well with white and rosé wines, and sometimes even with reds. The perfect wine pairing depends on how the fish is cooked over the coals, as well as whether it is a denser and oilier fish, or whether the meat is more tender, as in the case of crayfish.

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).

“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 Trauttmannsdorf from Gut Dornau, a family-run fishery to the south of Vienna that has been producing delicious fish for almost 400 years. Oilier fish that can be grilled on the skin, such as carp or catfish, do well with wines with delicate toasted aromas, such as Zweigelt from Burgenland or a fruity, lightly chilled, classic Pinot Noir from the Thermenregion. Full-bodied Chardonnays and rosé wines are also recommended with more strongly flavoured fish.

A picture shows grilled fish and a glass of Austrian wine. A picture shows people toasting with Austrian wine.
Chargrilled vegetables and cheese Whether they’re a side or a barbecue showstopper, chargrilled vegetables such as the highly popular courgettes, aubergine and peppers pair wonderfully with the minerality of Pinot Gris and Sauvignon Blancs, while grilled mushrooms call for a lightly chilled Sankt Laurent or Pinot Noir. The stronger aroma of cauliflower, which is good cooked whole and served with a sesame sauce, requires a wine that can confidently hold its own, such as a dense Chardonnay from Burgenland or an orange wine. Potatoes with fresh rosemary or baked in foil taste wonderful with a delicately fragranced rosé. Cheeses such as halloumi or feta are also very popular on the barbecue. White wines with a salty minerality, such as Sauvignon Blanc from Vulkanland Steiermark, Pinot Blanc from Leithaberg, or a Blaufränkisch rosé harmonise excellently with these dishes.
Barbecued fruit Are barbecues reserved for savoury food? Of course not! Flame-kissed fruit is also becoming increasingly popular. As a wine pairing for barbecued pineapple or nectarines, we recommend a well-chilled glass of Austria’s finest sweet wines, such as a Trockenbeerenauslese from Seewinkel or a Ruster Ausbruch from the other side of Lake Neusiedl. For a barbecued banana, a glass of Traminer with a little residual sugar is a great accompaniment. And if you want to cleanse your palate, why not round off your meal with something sparkling, like a summery spritzer?