An Expert Explains Why Burger Patty Thickness Matters When Pairing Wine

A glass of red wine can really boost a burger, serving to amplify and elevate the taste and texture of a deliciously rich, juicy beef patty. But while you might consider any toppings or accompaniments when picking out a bottle of wine, whether it's trying to match the cheeses, the sharp pickles, or the semi-sweet sauces, there's one factor you've probably overlooked: the size of the patty.

"Patty thickness can absolutely change my recommendation for a wine pairing," expert Cody Freed — who is the Bar Manager of The Infinite Monkey Theorem in Denver, Colorado — told Food Republic. The bigger the burger, the bolder the wine is a good rule of thumb to follow. So if you're serving a thick patty, which also tends to have a higher fat content, then Freed suggests matching it with heavier red wines, such as Malbec or Syrah.

Malbec is a great match for ribeye steaks (especially if you go for the richly-colored and full-bodied wines from Argentina's Mendoza region rather than the higher acidity French varieties), so it's not surprising it goes so well with fattier beef patties. With its fruity, plummy notes and a hint of cocoa, the robust taste can stand up to even the heftiest burger. Also known as Shiraz, Syrah is another full-bodied heavyweight. With similarly intense fruity flavors of plums and dark berries, it also has a hint of leather and licorice and a slightly smoky gaminess that matches big beefy patties beautifully.

Pair smash burgers with a lighter-bodied red wine

If you prefer thinner smash burgers, then deep and full-bodied wines could be a little overbearing for the simpler style of burger. Instead, wine expert Cody Freed suggests "something a little lighter bodied" to drink alongside. Either Cabernet Franc or Cabernet Sauvignon work well, he advises.

Cabernet Franc tends to be lighter and brighter than a typical Malbec or Syrah, both in color and character. With vibrant raspberry and a little pepperiness, it pairs perfectly with the umami-rich savory beefy flavors. And when the patty is thinner, it means the mellow wine won't bully the burger, but will work in harmony to enhance it.

Cabernet Sauvignon also makes an excellent match. While this red wine grape variety is grown all over the world, with lots of different styles, it often tends to be higher in tannins, which works well with rich meat. As an added bonus, it also goes great with a patty that's well-seasoned with pepper (one of only two ingredients Bobby Flay uses to season his burger) — especially if it's topped with cheddar cheese, too. "Our current Cab Sauv is a little softer on the palate and would complement a smash burger perfectly," says Freed. So when it comes to grabbing a glass at your next grill session, think about how much the burger patties weigh, and get ready to cook up a winning wine match.