Burgers and Wine?

Besides apple pie, what could be more American than hamburgers? This staple of backyard barbecues and drive-thru windows continues to be more popular than ever, especially with top chefs around the country who are revamping this once humble sandwich by using luxurious ingredients such as prime beef, artisan bacon, hand-crafted cheeses and specialty sauces.

Since our hamburgers have gone upscale, why shouldn’t the beverage we drink with it? There is a wide range of craft beers and small-production sodas that fit the bill, but I also would throw wine into the mix. After all, red wine and red meat go together like a hand and glove.

Adding two pieces of bread, cheese and condiments to the combo only strengthens the pairing.

The choice of which wine to select with your burger is largely based on the type of protein the burger is made from. Red meat based patties are perfect when paired with any hearty and robust red wine that you would enjoy with a steak. I especially enjoy the spicy and peppery flavors of Rhone varietal-based wines such as Cotes du Rhone, syrah and grenache, which are natural matches with the smoky flavors from the grill and toppings such as bacon.

Vegetarian patties or portobello mushroom burgers are livened up with a glass of something juicy and bright such as Italian barbera or dolcetto. The tart cherry flavors of the wine bring out the sweet flavors of the vegetables and the earthiness of the mushroom while providing a pleasant contrast against vinegary condiments such as pickled relish or balsamic marinated onions.

Shellfish such as shrimp and lobster also can be used to form patties, and I find white wines are the best match for these ocean-inspired burgers, especially torrontes from Argentina. The light and citrus notes keep the pairing nice and clean while the slight floral notes really heighten the flavors of herbs such as chives, tarragon and basil. Seafood burgers made from rich and oily fish such as ahi tuna or salmon are best paired with a light and fruity red wine such as pinot noir.

With a bacon cheeseburger, try …
Raw Power Shiraz ($12)
Juicy blackberry fruit and spicy pepper notes pair well with rich, meat-based burgers covered in bacon and cheese.

With a portobello mushroom burger, try …
Camerano Dolcetto d’Alba ($22)
Sour cherry and plum fruit notes highlight the sweet and earthy flavors of this mushroom burger.

With a shrimp and lobster burger, try …
La Yunta Torrontes ($11)
Bright, lemony citrus notes pair well with sweet flavors of the shellfish.