Burgers don’t have to pair with beer. Wine, if chosen correctly, can complement savory meat-on-bun just as well. For the bison burgers below, it’s important to pick a wine with ripe fruit flavors to play off the sweetness of the caramelized onion, and some acid to cut through the richness of the meat. These three suggestions from Spiaggia sommelier Rachael Lowe will do just fine.
Mix 1 pound ground bison, until just combined, with 8 green olives, chopped; 3 sun-dried tomato halves, chopped; 1 egg, slightly beaten; 1/2 cup breadcrumbs; and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Form into four patties; season on both sides with salt and pepper to taste. Heat 1 tablespoon canola oil in a large skillet; add patties. Cook, turning once, until browned on both sides and medium rare, 9 minutes. Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon canola oil in a second large skillet; add 1 red onion, cut in thin slices, and salt to taste. Cook until soft and translucent, stirring in 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar when almost done, 8 minutes. Serve burgers on buns topped with onions. Serves 4. — Recipe by Joe Gray
Pairings by sommelier Rachael Lowe of Spiaggia, as told to Michael Austin:
Berlucchi Cuvee ’61 Rose Brut Franciacorta, Lombardy, Italy: This wine was made in the Metodo Classico style (aka the Champagne method), using a 60/40 blend of pinot noir and chardonnay. It has notes of pomegranate and cranberry, plus a hint of florality and toast that will work well with the burger. The bracing acidity and bubbles will cut through the richness of the meat and bread, while the ripeness of the fruit will balance the savory flavors.
2011 Yves Leccia d’E Croce Patrimonio Rouge, Corsica, France: Made from grapes grown in chalk soils over schist (a metamorphic rock), this wine focuses entirely on terroir and the combination of grapes: 90 percent nielluccio (sangiovese) and 10 percent grenache. Bright red cherries, thyme, smoke and a hint of leathery minerality jump from the glass. The slight tannin and balanced acid will cut the density of the burger, while the extraction of the fruit will mirror the sweetness of the caramelized onions.
2012 Domaine La Barroche Chateauneuf du Pape, Rhone Valley, France: Predominantly grenache with a smaller amount of syrah, mourvedre and cinsault, this is a lush representation of Chateauneuf du Pape, with aromas of brambly red and black raspberry, black currant and lilac, plus a note of herbes de Provence and licorice. The Provencal element will resonate well with the green olive and tomato in the dish, as well as the gamy nature of the bison.