Ask a Sommelier: The Best Wines to Drink With Sausages

Your guide to pairing wine and grilled sausages. J. Kenji Lopez-Alt

If you're getting excited about grilling season, you've probably already checked in on our tips for the best way to grill sausages, and stocked up on condiments and buns. But what will you drink? We love smoky rauchbier and fresh IPA with sausage, but there are options for wine drinkers as well, whether you're making classic grilled hot dogs with ketchup and mustard or branching out to bratwurst with sauerkraut or spicy Italian sausage with sweet and sour peppers.

We asked sommeliers from around the country for their sausage and wine pairing advice. Here's what they had to say.

General Sausage-Pairing Tips

"The biggest misconception is the idea that sausages should be paired with red wine or that people should just opt for beer. Alsatian or German riesling works almost all the time with nearly all sausage dishes. Rich, high acid, flavorful white wines like those from the Burgundy or its more affordable neighbor, the Jura, are outstanding options as well. If you want red wine, I would stick with something light in body with high acid and just a hint of tannin. The Jura comes to mind, with their great Trousseaus and Poulsards, but you could also go for a nice juicy Beaujolais or a lovely light bodied Loire Valley red. At the end of the day, the sausage is likely only one component of the dish, and I would always consider all ingredients before settling on a pairing."—Jess Hereth (Olympia Provisions)

"Gruner Veltliner, Chablis, or a dry Riesling are all great pairings with brats, dogs, and spicy sausages—even if they're loaded with mustard, peppers, and onions. With crisp citrus and mineral flavors backed with acidity, each will do a great job of elevating the meaty, savory flavors in your bun without conflicting with the vinegar in spicy mustard. Even an off-dry Riesling would be a great fit giving a nice tug-and-pull to the sweet, savory and sour flavors. If you must have a red, go with those that have ample fruit and loads of acid, like Pinot Noir or Gamay Noir."—Ian Becker (Absinthe Group)

"The no-brainer pairing for sausages is, of course, riesling. Picture yourself at an Heuriger, a sort of Austrian wine tavern where you might have someone in the corner playing a zither, eating sausages and crushing crisp, dry Riesling by the liter, and you'll be feeling the gemütlickeit. It doesn't have to be bone dry, or even Austrian, but the ever present acidity is what's going to enliven even a ballpark dog. For a red, I always like a good Cru Beaujolais, e.g. Morgon, Moulin-a-Vent, etc., in this situation, with just enough juicy red fruit. Both assume you don't want the simplest solution, though: beer."—Chad Walsh (The Dutch)

"You are right to be saying beer is the best thing with is...but when you are in the mood for wine, I'd head to the big reds, such as softer style Zinfandel. There is a chance you could go with a more mild wine, but in this instance I would say make the wine fun and let the food have the complexity."—Paul Einbund (Frances and Seam Wines)

Getting Specific: Bratwurst With Mustard and Sauerkraut

Grilled Bratwurst with Beer, Mustard, and Sauerkraut
J. Kenji Lopez-Alt

"it's all about the condiments: as long as the wine and the sauce work together, everything else should fall into place!"

"As with almost everything food-related, it's all about the condiments: as long as the wine and the sauce work together, everything else should fall into place! For the brats, I think the classic pairing of Alsace Riesling is on the money; a little sweet fruit to counter the sour of the sauerkraut and the spice of the mustard is key, and these are white wines with enough texture and body to stand up to the sausage (the Grand Cru bottlings from Dirler-Cadé are pretty magical)."—Mia Van De Water (North End Grill)

"Pick a wine with a nice level of acidity. For brats cooked in beer and mustard with sauerkraut, I'd go with a dry Lambrusco like Ca Montanari 'Opera Secco' from Emilia-Romagna. The bright ripe fruit is a great contrast to the sauerkraut and it's light enough to not overpower or get in the way."—Daniel Beedle (Juni)

"For brats cooked in beer with mustard and sauerkraut, you're going to want something that doesn't conflict with the sauerkraut but that has enough acidity to stand up to it. You are also going to want something that counteracts some of the spice from the mustard. I would go for a wine with a hint of residual sugar. Riesling or Pinot Gris (something Alsatian, like Albert Boxler) is going to be a shoe-in, but something effervescent like a sparkling Vouvray demi-sec, or even a Bugey-Cerdon (Patrick Bottex's is my favorite) would be great, too."—Jordan Salcito (Momofuku)

"Pairing wine with sausage is the easy part; it's all the condiments that can throw you for a loop. With sauerkraut, I'd stick to the obvious: savory, snappy Gruner Veltliner from Austria, or a leaner, fresher style of dry Riesling from somewhere like the Pfalz. The tartness of sauerkraut makes pairing a red more challenging, so stick with an inexpensive crisp white."—Grant Reynolds (Charlie Bird)

For bratwurst with mustard, look to Poulsard, one of the Jura's unique red grapes. It produces a light-bodied red with notes of black cherry and strawberry. The grape doesn't have much pigment, so it looks more like a rosé than a big, extracted red wine. This wine will let the food take the center stage while the persistent acidity will ready you for the next bite."—Ryan Arnold (Lettuce Entertain You)

"When I think of brats with mustard and sauerkraut, I think of Oregon Riesling. 'Memorista' Riesling by Ovum Wines is my new favorite out of the Willamette Valley and it is a dead ringer for a dry Riesling out of the Mosel Valley. It's got that perfect harmony of mineral, lemon, smoke and salt that screams for a rich sausage and it's got the acidity to deal with the sauerkraut and mustard."—Brent Braun (Levant)

"Wine with brats: I would pour a fairly fruit driven Austrian Gruner Veltliner, something that has a pretty rich stone fruit component with smoky, white pepper notes. Heidler Thal Vineyard Kamptal, Austria 2012 is a good example."—Mark Mendoza (Coi)

Hot Dogs With Mustard and Ketchup

J. Kenji Lopez-Alt

"Classic grilled dogs want a refreshing Spanish or French rosé, something easy drinking, good for hanging around the barbecue, nothing too fussy. "—Dana Frank (Ava Gene's and Bow & Arrow)

"For classic grilled hot dogs with ketchup and mustard, I might opt for a juicy and fruit-driven red wine, such as Zinfandel or Cinsault. Wells Guthrie at Copain is making a fantastic light red wine, called 'P2,' made from equal parts Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris. It boasts juicy red berry fruit, no tannins, and a limestone backbone. For similar reasons, I'd also recommend Comte Abbatucci's Rouge Frais Impérial, made from biodynamically grown grapes in Corsica.—Jordan Salcito (Momofuku)

"With grilled hot dogs and ketchup and mustard I would actually get a little crazy and tell you to drink some Alsatian Gewurztraminer. The floral aromatics, fat oily texture, and hint of sugar are outstanding with the sweetness of ketchup and the aggressiveness of mustard."—Jess Hereth (Olympia Provisions)

"Rosé Champagne and grilled hot dogs always works. Hot dogs are somewhat of a guilty pleasure and so is Champagne. It's like pairing a childhood memory with something really decadent. You could also get a nice sparkling rosé from Penedes in North Eastern Spain if you are on more of a hot dog budget.—Daniel Beedle (Juni)

"When it comes to hot dogs (especially if outside in the backyard), I really love a grenache-based rosé like Domaine de la Fouquette from Provence or an American riff like Donkey & Goat's Isabel's Cuvée. They have sun-kissed fruit to love on the sweetness of the ketchup, and a whiff of white pepper to dance with the mustard."—Mia Van De Water (North End Grill)

"Wine with a classic hot dog, I would probably go with a slightly chilled Beaujolais, something that has a bit of acid and a hallmark meatiness to it, with primary light red fruits. Chateau Thivin Cote de Brouilly 2012 is a good example."—Mark Mendoza (Coi)

Spicy Italian Sausage with Sweet and Sour Peppers

Grilled Italian Sausage with Sweet and Sour Peppers and Onions
J. Kenji Lopez-Alt

"I want wine that I'm gonna be happy drinking outside in the heat. Rose and slightly chilled, lighter bodied reds hit the spot. I like Ligurian Rossesse a lot; it's got good acidity and freshness and tastes like cherries and the beach. I would happily chug a bottle with some spicy Italian sausage with sweet peppers and onions."—Brent Braun (Levant)

"For the Italian sausage, I suggest picking out a juicy Italian red with generous fruit and just a hint of funk, something like the Librandi Ciro Rosso or Arianna Occhipinti's SP68, a blend of Frappato and Nero d'Avola from Sicily that is sweet, tart, and earthy in equal measure."—Mia Van De Water (North End Grill)

"For a spicy Italian sausage with sweet/sour peppers and onions I would take one of two possible routes: off-dry German riesling or a nice robust juicy Lambrusco. Plus, Lambrusco is a great BBQ drink as it's like a wine-y alternative to beer."—Jess Hereth (Olympia Provisions)

"Finding a rich, textured wine that's also high in acidity is important. One that I love at the moment is Koehler-Ruprecht's Pinot Blanc from the Pfalz, in Germany. The wine tastes dry but retains a slight hint of residual sugar, which will match beautifully with the sweet peppers and mellow the spice from the sausage meat."—Jordan Salcito (Momofuku)

"I'd say keep it in the family and go for a Sicilian red. Some of the Nero d'Avola and Frappato blends have great spice and earth characteristics, but still provide a charming elegance to smooth out the rich and spicy Italian sausage."—Daniel Beedle (Juni)

"I would go straight to a peppery Syrah from California, a wine with plush deep red to lighter black fruits and polished tannins. Kunin "Alisos Vineyard' Syrah, Santa Barbara County 2009 is a good example."—Mark Mendoza (Coi)

"Vouvray Sec from the Loire Valley! There's a nerve and tension between sweet, sour, and honeyed flavors."—Ryan Arnold (Lettuce Entertain You)