Food and drink 

Sturdy, fun-sipping barbecue reds

For people in the backyard burning beef

There’s no need to rush summer. It’s not even the middle of August, so just ignore those back-to-school sales. To help stave off the inevitable I suggest a good old-fashioned barbecue, complete with a killer selection of “barbecue” wine.

I have a good friend who describes the barbecue process as “men in the backyard burning beef,” and while I think she is closer to the truth than she knows, there is no need to leave the ’cueing to any one sex. After all, men are not born with any particular barbecue skills so we shouldn’t expect them to turn into Rob Feenie the minute the barbecue is fired up.

Now, what to cook…

While T-bone steaks would be great, chicken, hamburgers or smokies will do just fine. Simply add some fresh corn on the cob and sliced heritage tomatoes, grill some vegetables and, voilà , you have yourself a barbecue that screams summer. All you need now are the wines.

Although wineries seldom characterize their wines as “barbecue reds”, lest we think of them as not serious, the fact is everybody is looking for the great barbecue red, (translation: an inexpensive, sturdy, fun-sipping wine) that will stand up to the smoke and charred food.

Today we look at some classic barbecue candidates, all recently tasted, that should be widely available in government and/or local private wine stores.

California zinfandel was the classic barbecue wine before the arrival of Aussie shiraz, and while the sweet-sipping white zinfandel has grabbed a lot the limelight, it’s the old-fashioned, dry-farmed, old vines, RED, zinfandel that is the classic, ’cue wine.

My current hot picks would include Zig Zag Zin 2004 ($25) a big, warm, friendly zin packed with bright red fruits al la plums cherries and raspberries. That goes ditto for the Z 52 Agnes Vineyard Old Vine Lodi Zinfandel 2003 ($35) , big warm and bold, it’s well-suited to grilled sausages or barbecued back ribs. Softer and a little bit smoother is the spicy, ripe Tamás Estates Zinfandel 2004 ($18) , or finally check out the aptly named Artezin Zinfandel 2005 ($25) — it’s crammed with briary, black fruit. You can serve this crowd pleaser with most grilled meats and roasted poultry.

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