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How to Pair Every Kind of Burger with Wine

How to Pair Every Kind of Burger with Wine

There’s nothing quite like the pairing of a classic, fresh-off-the-grill burger and ice-cold beer on a hot summer day. But burgers and wine can be an equally delicious duo. After all, burgers are a casual, fun food—they wonderfully complement wines that share those traits.

Paula de Pano, sommelier and owner of Rocks + Acid, a wine shop and tasting room in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, wants her burger-and-wine experience to feel almost primal.

“I’m not looking for a revelatory moment when I choose to drink wine with a burger,” de Pano says. “I want it to be an everyman kind of experience, no-frills and gut-satisfying from both ends.”

Meanwhile, when Bambi Ray, sales manager at New York City’s Astor Wines & Spirits, thinks about burgers on the grill, she’s drawn to bright, uplifting wines.

“You don’t want something that’s going to feel super heavy and weigh you down,” Ray explains. “You want something refreshing—nothing that makes you want to take a nap.”

No matter what type of burger you’re cooking up this summer, consider this your sign to break out the wine glasses. (Plastic is fine—after all, this is a casual situation!) These burger and wine-pairing picks, dreamed up by drinks experts and matched with bottles from the Wine Enthusiast Tasting Department, are sure to keep the party going.

The Best Burger and Wine Pairings


The Best Wine for a Classic Hamburger

“A well-executed burger has incredible umami, which makes it versatile to pair with [many] styles of wines,” says Yannick Benjamin, Wine Enthusiast’s 2021 sommelier and beverage director of the Year. He suggests “a beautiful Dolcetto from Piedmont.” Dolcetto means “little sweet one” in Italian, and although it’s not sweet, its notes of juicy berry fruit and hint of savory heft helps it stand up to a quintessential beef burger. These wines are meant to be enjoyed young. “They have enough tannin to balance richer foods,” says Benjamin, but it won’t weigh you down.

Turkey Burger

The Best Wine for a Turkey Burger

Ray recommends a fuller-bodied rosé to enjoy with a turkey burger. That’s because there are often a lot of flavors contained in a single burger, from toppings and sauces to the patty itself. Because turkey patties are a little milder than their beefy cousins, they’re arguably more likely to be tricked out with condiments.

“Rosé is something that won’t be at odds with the flavors of lettuce, tomato and avocado, and really pairs well with all the options,” Ray advises. She suggests opting for a heartier style of rosé with citrus and plum notes. It’s still refreshing enough to sip on a sunny afternoon with turkey burger in hand.

Cheese Burger
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The Best Wine for a Cheeseburger

Burger plus melted cheese equals a weighty flavor bomb, so you’re going to want “a bit more of a palate-cleansing wine, because the cheese brings an element of richness,” says Jahdea Gildin, sommelier at New York City’s Luthun. A lighter and brighter style of red wine that will lift you back up, like a Beaujolais, is a great option. It’s “nice and fresh, with red and black fruits, and a little bit of a floral note,” Gildin says. It’s a perfect foil for a meaty, cheesy cheeseburger.

Lamb Burger

The Best Wine for a Lamb Burger

Jill Weber, owner of multiple restaurants in Philadelphia—Jet Wine Bar, Rex, Cafe Ynez and Sor Ynez—suggests a wine with a complex nose, vivid fruit flavors and herbal undertone to help stand up to the slight funk of lamb. She opts for an Areni Noir from Armenia when possible. “Especially if the burger has some feta cheese, which they typically do. The bright cherry and black pepper of an Areni Noir red is a perfect pairing,” she notes.

If a bottle like this isn’t available, Wine Enthusiast Senior Tasting Editor Jim Gordon suggests a light style Cabernet Franc, which delivers similar floral and black pepper characteristics.

Veggie Burger

The Best Wine for a Traditional Veggie Burger

When it comes to old-school veggie burgers, the kind where you can see black beans and corn right in the patty, “there’s still heft and richness, even though it’s vegetarian, so I don’t want anything to add too much weight,” says Ray.

She goes for Lambrusco di Sorbara, which hails from Italy’s Emilia-Romagna region. “It’s not super dark and inky like some Lambrusco,” Ray explains. “It drinks more like a full-bodied rosé or a light-bodied red, with good acidity, refreshing lift and enough acid to cut through a veggie burger.”

Paltrinieri 2022 Radice Sparkling (Lambrusco di Sorbara)

This lightning bolt of a wine opens with aromas of tart red berries, ruby red grapefruit and fresh rose that pour out of the glass. The zippy palate continues the energy of the nose with flavors of sour cherry, pickled watermelon, wild mint and thyme all leading to a finish that seems to never end. Delish! Editor’s Choice. 95 Points  — J.P.

Wine Access

Bison Burger with a pretzel bun

The Best Wine for a Bison Burger

A bison burger is quite lean, so choose a light, slightly fizzy and zippy wine that will complement, rather than overpower it. De Pano recommends a super drinkable Gamay, “with a light fizz that interplays well with bison’s leanness.” She says sipping the wine is “almost like taking a joyride in a 50s Thunderbird—electric and fun with sour cherry, crunchy red delicious apples, coriander and citrus peel.” For an even better combination that’s celebratory too, Gordon suggests a rosé variety.

Salmon Burger

The Best Wine for a Seafood-Based Burger

The Assyrtiko grape is one of the most celebrated native Greek varietals. It originated in Santorini, but is now grown all over Greece. Sipping this with a tuna or salmon burger brings out the citrus, saline flavors of the wine while complementing the relatively delicate flavors of the fish.

“Assyrtiko has a nice, full mouthfeel, acidic freshness and ample fruit,” says Weber. But it’s the “sea kiss” of the wine that makes it a spot-on choice for seafood. Tuna and salmon burgers are often dressed up with bold additions like Sriracha or ginger, and Assyrtiko plays nicely with these zingy, spicy flavors, too.

Oeno P 2021 Tria Ampelia Assyrtiko (Santorini)

From 60-year-old vines on Greece’s windswept Santorini island comes this pale-straw-colored Assyrtiko with notes of ripe peaches, fresh tangerines and just-picked lemons on the nose. The medium body is a result of the 16 months the wine spends on its lees in the bottle, as are the irresistible lemon poundcake flavors on the palate and long finish. 91 Points  — Emily Saladino

Mr. D Wine

Impossible Burger
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The Best Wine for an Impossible or Beyond Meat Burger

Gildin was a vegetarian for 21 years, and although he eats burgers on occasion now, he understands the longing for a non-meat, yet meaty, experience.

“Impossible burgers are new, so it makes sense to choose a wine that is also new,” he says. Gildin suggests a wine that has “bright freshness and white fruit” to “cut through the richness of faux meat.” Gordon likes sparkling wines from Washington, because they embody novelty and are light-bodied. But especially with burgers, don’t be afraid to experiment and play. Chances are, you’ll surprise yourself with something satisfying and tasty.

Why You Should Trust Us

All products featured here are independently selected by our team, which is comprised of experienced writers and wine tasters and overseen by editorial professionals at Wine Enthusiast headquarters. All ratings and reviews are performed blind in a controlled setting and reflect the parameters of our 100-point scale. Wine Enthusiast does not accept payment to conduct any product review, though we may earn a commission on purchases made through links on this site. Prices were accurate at the time of publication.

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