Barbecue reds — and more 

Smokin' hot buys for the long weekend

click to enlarge Chat En Oeuf 2011 Rosé, Pays d'Oc, France $13
  • Chat En Oeuf 2011 Rosé, Pays d'Oc, France $13

If you think about the notion of a barbecue wine it's fair to say it's a category that didn't really exist a generation ago. We may have been grilling in the backyard but drinking wine with whatever was being cooked wasn't on.

Today, the list of wines that qualify appears endless, which makes pairing suggestions for hot-off-the-grill, charbroiled hamburgers to a T-bone steak or grilled lamb chops mostly a snap. And there's no need to confine your choices to red wine.

Given our wealth of seafood and myriad food choices for home-cooking, white wines deserve their spot at the party, too. In 2013, I would suggest there are plenty of whites and rosé that can be poured at the party. Just make sure they're uncomplicated, fun-to-sip bottles that you can greet your guests with at the door.

The first duty of any barbecue wine is to be affordable. This compliments the casual nature of most barbecues and allows you, the host, plenty of flexibility when it comes to stocking enough wine to deal with guest lists that frequently expand at the last minute.

The style of wine required is not as clear-cut but there are some caveats. Red wines should be fruity enough to break down the spice and heat from sauces and seasonings, yet on the other hand they should be full-bodied and flavourful enough 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's 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. It's almost summer and the temperatures are rising so it'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 on a piazza in Rome or Florence, or in the countryside in Portugal or Spain. They are usually chosen to cool you down and or enhance the food.

Wineries seldom characterize their wines as barbecue-friendly lest we think of them as not serious. Well, I've got news for them. Everyone is looking for something they can take to a barbecue. Translation: an inexpensive, fun-drinking versatile wine that not only tastes good but makes you look good, too.

In this context, we present some ideas that might pull you away from your usual tipple. Now, if you really want to have some fun why not brown bag your offerings before dinner and allow everybody a chance to taste the wines "blind."


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