In conjunction with Burger Week, Eater talked to some of Atlanta's best wine, beer, spirits, and burger people to find out what those in the business drink when they are eating burgers. There's no list of best burgers here, no pedantic critique of the bun, beef, or processed cheese used. Nope. Here we are talking about the most important part of any burger indulgence, the boozy concoction you use to wash down that decadent beefy goodness.
Robert Phalen, chef and owner, One Eared Stag
For a red wine, the Borgogno 2009 Nebiolo (Barolo). This is considered the "wine of kings" — a Barolo that is often served at royal celebrations. The decadence matches perfectly with [One Eared Stag's burger, the Meatstick]. This is a pairing that will make anyone feel like a king for a day.
For a white wine, the Hetszolo Tokaji Dry Furmint, from Tokaj-Hegyalja in Hungary. This wine has some grit to it — it's slightly dry and chalky. It's assertive enough to cut through the rich, juicy flavors of the Meatstick.
Matthew Crawford, general manager, Ford Fry's restaurants/St. Cecilia
I'm a purist when it comes to burger time. My requirements are simply a lightly toasted H&F bun, double patty cooked medium, bacon, ketchup, mayo, and mustard. With my classic burger, there is really only one thing that I ever want with it, and that is bubbles. I love the contrast of the super heavy savory, salty notes from the bacon and beef to the clean, crisp, acidic hit from a Blanc de Blanc Champagne. I also love it with a high quality Cava from Spain or any Franciacorta from Italy.
On the off chance that I want to break away from my purist roots, I consider packing as many mushrooms onto my patty and bun as humanly possible — beef, mushrooms, and gruyere cheese to bring on the funk and earth. There are two wines that I want to drink with this burger, and they come from the Cotes de Nuits in France and the tiny village of Barolo in Italy. Give me a Premier Cru Pinot Noir from Gevrey-Chambertin or Vosne-Romanee if you want a lighter approach to pair with this burger. If you're feeling more aggressive, let's throw a Nebbiolo from Barolo at it and watch the earthy notes play together and tannins break up the super savory attack on your palate.
Maggie Meroney, CSW, sommelier, Southbound
Our burger at Southbound is classic with Hook's Cheddar, lettuce, tomato, and housemade ketchup and comes with some spectacular fries.
Our 2013 Rousseau Frères Touraine Noble Joué from the Loire Valley is a wine made from three different Pinot grapes and is a great match with its rich, tropical aromatics and lively acidity. It's intense enough for the bold burger, with some noticeable tannins, which you want to tame the protein. Also the acidity stands up to the fries. The Rousseau Frères is $11 per glass on our list.
The red wine I would select, hands down, is 2013 Hobo Cabernet Sauvignon from Sonoma County. This wine emphasizes balance over alcohol content, unlike some California Cabernets. The tannins are smooth and rich, which complement the protein perfectly. I think of it as an old-school Cabernet pre-fruit bomb. That one is $14/glass or $48/bottle.
Anthony Yambor, proprietor, pH Wine Merchants
When pairing wine with burgers, my philosophy is: keep it simple. There is a good chance that every person's burger is going to be a bit different at the same table (condiments, meat temperature, and veggie/topping choices), so I look for a red that has vibrant fruit, medium body, and refreshing acidity that cleanses the palate. The 2011 G.D. Vajra Langhe Rosso checks all of those boxes and is under $15 retail. It has plump dark berry fruit with a bit of spice thrown in along with a luscious texture. On the finish, the fruit takes center stage with vibrant acidity that keeps the wine fresh and balanced. It is great with burgers.
For white wine, I want a wine that has the structure to stand up to the heft of a burger and some generosity of fruit in addition to well-integrated acidity. Pam Starr's 2012 Bridesmaid White is a great choice from Napa Valley. It is 70 percent Sauvignon Blanc and 30 percent Semillon. Tropical fruit flavors rush across the palate with a touch of honeyed lime and tense acidity that keeps the wine from seeming heavy — quite to the contrary, this Bordeaux-styled white blend carries its rich fruit with grace. At under $20, this is a true bargain from Pam Starr in Napa that goes great with a lot of different cuisines, but I adore it with a great burger, especially a turkey burger.
Julian Goglia, owner and bartender, The Pinewood Tippling Room
Alright, for wine I'd go directly with either a glass of crisp bubbly or something medium bodied with slight tannin. Our Tempranillo would be a great pairing. We're known for our cocktails at the Pinewood, and they're definitely our strong suite. The choices I'd give people would be between our Goonies Never Say Die! or The Honey Badger. Both are mildly acidic, and bring a decent amount of spice to the table to help cleanse the palate between each bite. Nothing overpowering, but just enough to help navigate you through our huge 80/20 burger.
Eric Brown, owner, Le Caveau Fine Wines
White wines are not my first choice for a burger, but I think the 2013 Eladio Piñeiro 'Envidia Cochina' Albariño is great with a burger because it is rich and powerful due to its lees aging and will stand up to the flavors of a burger. It also has the acidity to cut through the fat of the burger itself and any cheese that might accompany it (because the burger is about the toppings too), as well as a charming little saline note on the palate.
My pick for the red is a vin de soif from the Loire Valley made with the Grolleau grape. The 2013 Le Sot de L'Ange 'Grolleau Sans Soufre' it is a great burger wine for this time of year because it's bright, has super juicy acidity with a sneaky little bit of tannin, but it's not too weighty as to overpower a burger. It has loads of plummy fruit for sure, but there is also a little savory/earthy thing going on that makes it a great match for a grass-fed beef burger, or maybe even a lamb burger.
Jason Santamaria, beer architect, Second Self Beer Company
To pair with a burger I'd suggest our Red Hop Rye. Without a doubt. It's malty, and hoppy, and a bit spicy, and it's going to cut through the fat of the burger. Any spices in the burger will be enhanced by the hops and the spice from the rye will bring it all together.
Melissa Davis, assistant sommelier, Cakes & Ale
For a white wine, the Gerard Lambert de Seyssel Petit Royal — a brilliant sparkling wine from Savoie in France. For $19 off the shelf in the [Cakes & Ale] Wine Shop, it's pure and clean with acidity and almost drinks like a cider. Perfect for a burger.
For a red wine with burgers I would suggest the Nicolas Chemarin "Les Charmes" Morgon from Beaujolais in France. It's absolutely perfect Gamay for this time of year: great dark fruits, with light tannins and a firm structure. It will certainly stand up to red meat and French fries, but won't burn you out in the sunshine.
Matt Bradford, wine director, Canoe/Cellar Door Wine Shop
For a red wine, I'd go with Pico Maccario, ‘Lavignone,' Barbera d'Asti 2012 — $15.95. The bright red fruit character of this Barbera is a perfect comfort food pairing. It is perfect for everything from burgers to pizza; the high acidity cuts through the richness of a hot burger from the grill with an almost magical capability.
For a white wine, the Sigalas Assyrtiko, Santorini 2013 — $27.95. This is a traditional accompaniment to Greek kabobs from the grill, and it happily covers the platform of an American Burger. It is complex enough to balance the smoke from a charcoal grill and cuts right through whatever sauce you choose for you backyard burger.
— Eater Atlanta contributor Dennis Attick