Let’s talk about something other than COVID...of course that occupies a good amount of all our brain space these days. But it’s ok to take a break and let your mind contemplate fun stuff, inconsequential stuff, like burger wine!
Yes, I can’t help it. I am such a wine nerd that I would rather drink wine with my burgers than beer! Crazy but true!!
Of course, some of my usual favorite, easy drinking reds like Pinot Noir and Gamay would work lovely with burgers, but let’s go outside the box! What I am really looking for in burger wine is a red wine that has great acid to cut through that delectable burger richness and just enough body to stand up to that richness. But I also want a relatively low alcohol wine -- one that can work with a slight chill -- a refreshing red! Lastly, I want my burger wine to be affordable -- something I can buy in abundance for a party or not feel badly for drinking out of a tumbler. All of these attributes are why I usually seek out Pinot Noir or Gamay, but there are certainly others that check these boxes.
How about Cabernet Franc from the Loire? Many folks probably hear the word Cabernet and immediately take a mental trip to Cabernet Sauvignon with its grippy tannins and lush power. But Cabernet Franc (the parent to Cab Sauv.) can be bright and relatively light on the palate, especially when it comes from the cool climate spot of the Loire Valley in France. Look for regions like Anjou, Chinon, and Saumur Champigny that specialize in Cab Franc. Look for producers like Baudry, Breton, and Lambert (pictured here).
Next up -- Mencia from northwestern Spain. This grape is most often found in the Bierzo and Ribeira Sacra regions, and to me it drinks like Gamay crossed with Syrah. It has a lovely fruitiness to it but still with that old world earthy backbone. It was not until researching for this post that I discovered that natives of northwest Spain originally thought it was related to Cab Franc. DNA testing proved otherwise, but go figure! Look for producers like Raul Perez, Guimaro, Gregory Perez, and Gabo do Xil (pictured here).
Next up -- Bourgogne Passetoutgrain...so I kind of lied as this is in fact a blend of Pinot Noir and Gamay, and I promised we would venture away from those tried and true faves. But I am willing to bet a lot of you have not heard of Bourgogne Passetoutgrain. This is an appellation in Burgundy for blends of Pinot Noir and Gamay -- legally requiring that Pinot Noir make up at least ⅓ of the blend. The style dates back to a time when Gamay was planted throughout Burgundy (rather than being relegated to the Beaujolais region). These days they are harder to find, but when you do grab them up! Look for producers likeChevillon, Lignier, and Forey (pictured here).
Last but so far from least -- how about a great, dry Lambrusco? This is sparkling red wine from the Emilia Romagna region of Italy. Sadly, its reputation was marred by a very effective 1970s marketing campaign for a sweet version known as Riuniti. (Who remembers those commercials!?) Thankfully, it’s experiencing a comeback with many well made, artisanal versions that are dry (not sweet)! And bubbly red might just be the perfect burger wine. Those bubbles scrub your palate clean with each sip and beg for another bite of burger. Look for producers like Saetti, Fiorini, Lini, and Denny Bini (pictured here).
Cheers to burger nights with plenty of burger wine!