Pair Wine With Burgers
When paring for burgers with more complex flavors — like the bacon, muenster and cremini mushroom burger from Post 390 in Boston — look to Ribera y Rueda wines from Spain.

When it comes to burgers, there’s the tried-and-true basic backyard version, and then there’s capital-B Burgers — you know, the big, gooey, beefy ones that chefs become known for and Instagrammers swoon over. While there’s nothing wrong with the former simple burger-cheese-bun version, the latter requires more thought when it comes to choosing what to drink with it. A straight-up cheeseburger requires little more than the coldest beer you have on hand, but what happens when you’re working with things like grass-fed beef, mushrooms, figs and (gasp) butter between the buns? Then, friends, drop the hops because it’s wine time. Let’s learn how to pair wine with burgers. 

To solve any burger pairing quandaries you might have as peak burger season arrives and to properly honor National Burger Day (May 28th), we’ve enlisted four sommeliers to give their tips and picks. All agree that Ribera del Duero red wine is the best thing to go with a burger (aside from fries, of course). Avoid the beer bloat and pop some bottles that lift your burger game to new heights.

Brahm Callahan
Master Sommelier and Beverage Director, 
Himmel Hospitality Group
@Brealsomm

Burger for Pairing: My ideal pairing would be the Bacon, Muenster & Cremini Mushroom Burger from Post 390 in Boston. It has crispy bacon bits, sauteéd cremini mushrooms and muenster cheese melted over the top on a soft bun, and I’d serve it with the Hacienda Monasterio from Ribera del Duero. This burger is nominated in Boston Magazine’s Battle of the Burger!

What is it about Spanish wines like those from Ribera del Duero that pair so well with burgers?
A good burger is all about the beef mix – just the right amount of fat makes all the difference and a big red (like the Hacienda Monasterio) will pair perfectly as the tannins in the wine will be mellowed by the fat in the burger.

What are some things to keep in mind when pairing wine with burgers in general?
Think about toppings: they often are the “secret sauce” that makes the burger stand out, but can also be aggressive flavors sometimes for pairing with wines.

What do you want to avoid when pairing wine with burgers?
You always want the wine to support the burger, so make sure that the flavor profiles play off one another — look for similar flavor profiles in the varietal as the topping of the burger.

Why is this the first burger that came to your mind?
This burger has all the things — all of them. The mushrooms and muenster cheese are all about umami, you add in the savory bacon flavor and this is just exactly what the Hacienda Monasterio is looking for.

(allenadri/Instagram)
(allenadri/Instagram)

Chris Tanghe, Master Sommelier
@CTanghe

Burger for Pairing: First the easy part: 2013 Dominio del Aguila Picaro Tinto Ribera del Duero with Bar Melusine’s Burk Ridge grass-fed burger with aioli and fig aigre-doux on their house baked seeded bun. This burger is an umami bomb with the aigre-doux and aioli! Aigre-doux is an extremely versatile condiment originating in France where fruit is cooked down and reduced with red wine, vinegar and sugar to make a sweet/sour sauce that is an incredible counter to the richness of the burger.

You can make this pair especially well by using a bottle of Ribero del Duero in the preparation of the aigre-doux. Dominio del Aguila is one of the most exciting new projects coming out of the region. The wines are super-savory with the relatively out of the ordinary blend of Tempranillo, Garnacha, Albillo and Bobal, with the inclusion of stems in the ferment. The wine sees cement and neutral oak that lets the quality of the fruit shine through, displaying the complex structure of the terroir of Ribera del Duero. The crunchy black fruits with formidable tannins tame the richness of the burger and pair nicely with the fig.

What is it about Spanish wines like those from Ribera del Duero that pair so well with burgers?
Burgers are protein– and fat- (read: flavor) heavy, which requires a wine that has the structure to match the intensity of that combination. The important structural elements needed here come in the form of acid and tannin. Ribera del Duero wines have these in spades due to the varieties used and the climate in which the vines are grown. Acid makes your mouth salivate — think of how lemon juice or vinegar feels — which helps to keep your palate from being overwhelmed with richness. The acid essentially cleanses your palate and keeps you wanting another bite by refreshing your tastebuds. Tannin works in the same way but is more protein specific. Tannins are attracted to those proteins and whisk them away, adding to the refreshment factor of the acid.

What are some things to keep in mind when pairing wine with burgers in general?
It largely depends of the type of meat used. For beef, lamb, bison and pork you’ll want a full-bodied wine like Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, Tempranillo or Syrah to cash in on that tannin magic. If it’s chicken or fish, white wines can work as you don’t have as much fat and having just acid will work nicely.

What do you want to avoid when pairing wine with burgers?
You have to be careful with fish oil and tannin, as the combo will often create an unappetizing metallic taste. I’d go with a white wine with some body like white Burgundy or oaked Sauvignon Blanc.

Why is this the first burger that came to your mind?
I love the simplicity of this burger. It’s all about the best ingredients and clear flavors — just meat, aioli, aigre-doux and bun that all work really well with wine.

(shakeshack/Instagram)
(shakeshack/Instagram)

Josh Lit, Sommelier, TheModern NYC
@Joshlit

Burger for Pairing: The burger that immediately popped into my head was the Double SmokeShack from ShakeShack. They key ingredient for this food and wine pairing is the addition of bacon. The fruit profile and structure of the wine goes perfectly with a double patty, Niman Ranch bacon and ShackSauce. The wine is so refreshing you keep coming back for more, and the saltiness of the bacon will also have you wanting more! When looking for a pairing with a burger, I would avoid any wines that are too light in body. This is because all you will end up tasting is the burger and the wine will become lost when you take a bite/sip. In most cases, you will want a little bit fuller of a wine with some tannin to help break down the burger and the toppings on the burger.

What are some things to keep in mind when pairing wine with burgers in general?
The most important thing about pairing wine with a burger is that it has to be “crushable.” What do I mean by this? When having a burger, it is not the time to have a wine you need to contemplate over. I want something that straddles the fence between medium to full-bodied, balanced alcohol and something juicy to balance out the burger patty. What comes to mind is 2013 Aalto from Ribera del Duero in Spain. The wine has bright red fruit and black fruit notes. Couple this with a little bit of structure and bright acidity and it is the perfect match for a burger.

What is it about Spanish wines like those from Ribera del Duero that pair so well with burgers?
I love wines from Ribera del Duero to go with a cheeseburger. The wines from this region in Castilla y Leon in Spain always have the perfect balance. They are always full of generous fruit and structure.

(@culvers/Instagram)
(@culvers/Instagram)

Charles Ford, General Manager and Sommelier at the upcoming S.K.Y. restaurant Chicago, IL
@Chuck40oz

Burger for Pairing: Culver’s “Butter Burger with Cheese” with 2009 Finca Villacreces Ribera del Duero is a solid pairing. Probably the most ordered burger in the midwest, Culver’s is the king of burgers across the middle states! As for the 2009 Finca Villacreces, this affordable vintage drinks super-smooth right out of the bottle, only needing a few moments to catch its breath before opening up with a huge blast of dark fruits and a silky mouth feel.

What is it about Spanish wines like those from Ribera del Duero that pair so well with burgers?
Spanish wines, particularly from Ribera del Duero, go so well with fattier foods because of the relationship that wine tannins have with fatty molecules. Tannin in wine bonds with proteins, which on a molecular level creates a more harmonious bite. How oak is traditionally used in Ribera del Duero, as well as its great relationship with the Tempranillo grape, make for a perfect flavor combination with a juicy burger.

What are some things to keep in mind when pairing wine with burgers in general?
Make sure you’re aligning the body of the burger with the body of the wine. Sure, you can probably get away with pairing many different wines with a burger, because it’s that simple a dish. However, A fuller-flavored dish like a cheeseburger needs a wine that has a bit more body to it, typically from thicker-skinned grapes.

What do you want to avoid when pairing wine with burgers?
With regards to pairing wine with burgers, the only thing I avoid is eating it more than once or twice a week. Honestly, that’s about the only thing I avoid when drinking wine while eating cheeseburgers. For health reasons, of course.

Why is this the first burger that came to your mind?
The Culver’s butter burger with cheese was the first burger that came to my mind, because this burger has been there for me every single time I called on it. What a constant. If something is that reliable, never leave it.

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