Barbeque, wine are the perfect fit – May 17, 2014


By Anthony Gismondi

It may sound odd but the notion of barbecue wines didna��t really exist a generation ago. We may have been grilling in the backyard but drinking wine with whatever was being cooked wasna��t on. If there was any drinking at all, most of it was beer, and it was done during the grilling. As for the grilling it was mostly rudimentary with a menu led by hot dogs or hamburgers.

The list of food that qualifies today for the barbecue appears endless, as are pairings for hot-off-the-grill hamburgers, chicken, steaks, lamb chops, ribs, pizza and any number of fish. There is no need to confine your choices to red wine, when a white, rose or sparkling will do better and Ia��m betting a tasty craft beer would be equally welcomed by your guests. In short, there are no rules.

As we head into the first long weekend of the season, where eating outdoors may be a reality, remember the first duty of any barbecue wine is to be affordable. This will complement the casual nature of most barbecues and allow the host plenty of flexibility when it comes to stocking enough wine to deal with guest lists that frequently expand at the last minute.

If there are no rules there a few guidelines. Red wines should be fruity enough to breakdown the spice and heat from sauces and seasonings yet they should be full-bodied enough and flavourful to withstand the multitude of flavours and strong smoky tastes associated with most barbecue. Red wine with fish has become an acceptable match too but it requires a bit more attention to detail. It is the acidity in red wine that makes the match work but only if the fish is not too oily. Lighter tannins and high fruit content work best here.

Your white wine choices should be adventurous. Ita��s almost summer, the temperature is rising and ita��s a good time to explore the lighter, fresher side of the wine business. Think of the wines one might sip if you were lucky enough to be sitting on a piazza in Rome or Florence, or in the countryside in Portugal or Spain. They are usually chosen to cool you and or brighten the food.

We share wines today that represent a major category you can enjoy at barbecues. We begin with rosA�; perhaps the ultimate barbecue wine, it pairs well with so many dishes save for the biggest grilled meats. But from chicken to fish to grilled pizza and everything in between, ita��s a winner. Our pick is Haywire Gamay Noir RosA� at $20, from Summerland in the Okanagan Valley (winery direct). Crisp and juicy, it calls out for crab or my favourite summer dish: a watermelon salad.

White wine doesna��t need to be chardonnay or even sauvignon blanc to be fun. The warm weather let us stretch out and try something new, refreshing bright and versatile. Our pick is Gazela Vinho Verde, $11, from Portugal, refreshing at nine-per-cent alcohol with a pinch of CO2 to liven it on the palate. Think alfresco dining.

Malbec is the signature soft, black wine of Argentina. Ita��s slightly wild, fruity flavours are best tamed by beef steak but ribs or hamburgers will do. Our pick is The Show Malbec, $19, from Mendoza. Dry savoury soft and textured.

Pinot Noir, as in soft, fruity New World types are your best bets with barbecue chicken or salmon dishes or even spicy sushi. Our pick is a bargain Chilean label Santa Carolina Reserva Pinot Noir, $14, from Maule, offering earthy, ripe raspberry/red fruit aromas and flavours.

Merlot continues to take a bad rap but it is round, soft and fruity or as Jancis Robinson has said, a�?ita��s cabernet without the pain.a�? It works for chicken or pork and even with simple fish dishes. Our pick is The Velvet Devil Merlot at $18.50, from Columbia Valley Washington.

Shiraz is beginning to pull up its socks in Australia and return to being a favourite summer red. Our pick, Yalumba Organic Shiraz, $17, comes with great purity of fruit and juicy acidity perfect for grilled meats.

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