Wine Pairing: Rioja and Cheeseburgers

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It’s time once more for another delicious wine pairing. Spring is here and summer is fast approaching, and that means only one thing: it’s barbecue time. Backyard cookouts are more associated with beer than wine, but that doesn’t mean you can’t pair a lovely bottle of vino with your favorite grilled foods. And in fact, that’s what we’re serving up today: Lopez de Haro Rioja Reserva and an all-American cheeseburger.



You should probably be aware: an all-American cheeseburger carries with it some obligations and responsibilities. The cheese must be American, and come fresh-sliced from a deli counter and not the refrigerated section of your local supermarket. The beef must be the freshest coarse-ground grass-fed chuck, straight from the butcher shop. The red onion, tomato, and lettuce must also be crisp and fresh. The Thousand Island dressing (ketchup, mayonnaise, and chopped dill pickles) should be homemade, as should the burger buns. This, fellow oenophiles, is the key to the proverbial “Perfect Burger.”


  • 2 pounds freshly ground chuck, 80% lean or more
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 12 slices American cheese (from the deli)
  • 6 large burger buns, toasted



  • ketchup
  • mayonnaise
  • Thousand Island dressing
  • red onion
  • tomatoes
  • dill pickles
  • fresh lettuce



  1. Combine ground beef, onion powder, salt, and pepper in a large bowl. Blend ingredients lightly; do not over-blend or the burgers will come out tough.
  2. Divide the beef into six equal portions and gently mold them into patties. These patties should be of equal thickness.
  3. Preheat grill, pan, or iron skillet. (High heat.) Add the burger patties. If grilling, put the lid on the grill.
  4. Cook patties for about two minutes. When burgers lift off the grill or pan easily, flip them and add two slices of cheese to each patty.
  5. Cook patties on the other side for about 2-3 minutes. (This will cook the burgers to medium rare or medium.)
  6. Remove burgers from heat and put on a plate. Allow patties to rest for a few minutes, then transfer to buns.
  7. Garnish with desired condiments and toppings and serve.

View recipe here: https://www.foodrepublic.com/recipes/all-american-cheeseburger-recipe/



Rioja is a red wine made from grapes grown in the communities of La Rioja and Navarre and the Basque province of Álava. Rioja straddles the line between heavily tannic reds like cabernet sauvignon and fruitier ones like pinot noir. As a red wine, it is quite structured—but also has fruity overtones. According to Wine Folly, rioja wine’s predominant flavors are cherry, plum, dill, vanilla, and old leather. The wine is full-bodied, with high acidity and high tannins, and is also quite alcoholic, between 13.5 and 15%. A rioja reserva is a rioja made from the harvest’s best grapes and which has been aged at least three years. Surprisingly, rioja reserva is startlingly inexpensive and easy to come by. And that’s exactly the case with the wine we’ve selected to pair with the all-American cheeseburger: Lopez de Haro Rioja Reserva.

Lopez de Haro Rioja Reserva is composed of 90% tempranillo grapes, 5% graciano, and 5% garnacha (grenache). It’s 13.5% ABV. It is aged in French and American oak barrels for 20 months. The Bodega Classica winery produces Lopez de Haro. The winery is located in the village of San Vicente de La Sonsierra, near the Ebro River in Rioja. According to reviewers:

The 2013 Lopez de Haro Rioja Reserva begins with pleasing and inviting aromas of ripe black cherry, nice vanilla notes and a touch of balsamic. The wine tastes smooth and round in the mouth with lots of tart black cherry fruit, sweet spice notes, licorice and more vanilla. It turns a bit oakier mid-palate with touches of coffee and chocolate that carry into the dry, long finish.

And best of all, Lopez de Hario Rioja Reserva retails for between $12 and $15. It’s a powerful and delicious Spanish red wine in an affordable package…perfect for a backyard cookout.



Pairing wine with a burger isn’t an exact science. But we believe Lopez de Haro Rioja Reserva perfectly complements an American cheeseburger for several reasons. First of all, it’s not too alcoholic. A heavy meal like a burger paired with a heavily alcoholic wine over 15% ABV would be a real belly-bomber! Second, Lopez de Haro Rioja Reserva has got the robust tannins needed to stand out among all the toppings you’ll have on your burger: Thousand Island dressing, pickles, and red onions. The acidity, as we’ve seen with previous pairings, helps to “clear the decks” and cleanse the palate after a big bite of burger. And the fruitiness of rioja, especially the notes of cherry and plum, offset the savoriness of the burger and impart a dessert-like sweetness to the tongue.

Some wine experts claim that a big, bold, spicy burger needs a big, bold, spicy red wine like malbec or zinfandel to pair with it. But we believe rioja is just spicy enough to stand on its own (even if your burger has all the toppings in the world on it). And it’s mild enough not to overpower your burger (even if your burger doesn’t have all the toppings in the world on it).

Now then: get yourself some ground chuck, bake some burger buns, buy a bottle of Lopez de Haro Rioja Reserva, and get cookin’!

If you enjoyed our rioja and cheeseburger pairing, be sure to check out our other pairings, such as pinot noir and salmon. And stay tuned: every three weeks, we’ll be bringing you more scrumptious wine and food pairings right here on our Ultra blog. To keep your wine bottles in handy reach while you cook dinner, be sure to check out our website to see our innovative and modular wine racking solutions.


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