The perfect wines for barbeque season

Nothing is as emblematic of summer as the Great British barbeque and although the merest suggestion of dog days inevitably results in a biblical wave of hostile weather, when the sun finally shows her beautiful big face ensure you are primed to toast the rarity with these wine suggestions.
Once perennially associated with an ice-cold beer, wine is now a happy guest at your summer blaze. The casual, almost thrown together, nature of barbequing means you need not take your wine selections too seriously nor break the bank.

Robust reds and acidic whites are effortlessly accessible and always palatable, but equally a heavy tannic red like a like Cabernet Sauvignon, a peppery Syrah, or even a rich buttery Chardonnay can easily find their respective places; next to a hearty, smoky bit of steak or a beautifully grilled chunk of chicken for example. In essence, there is no right or wrong answer.

The quintessential summer red wine is increasingly the straightforwardly drinkable Beaujolais. Fruity enough to contend with the plethora of seasonings and sauces yet sufficiently bodied and flavoursome to withstand the charcoaled smokiness of grilled meat, Beaujolais is the perpetual box-ticker of barbeque wines and can taste great when lightly chilled.

For something a little different but along the same lines as the aforementioned tried and tested, the cooler-climate of the Loire Valley produces reds with a similarly light mouth-feel. Vibrant, fruit-driven Cabernet Francs provide a succulent backdrop to barbequed meat.

A supple and appetising Pinot Noir from the New World is an archetypal lighter red wine that won’t overburden on a sun-kissed afternoon either.

Young, bold, fruity and spicy red wines like Zinfandel or a youthful Aussie Shiraz have the substance and personality to pair with red meat. Ditto a Tempranillo from Spain or a lingering Barolo from Italy.
An Argentinian Malbec will enhance a big, sizzling steak or a juicy, heart-stopping hamburger, as will a South African Pinotage or a Chilean Carmenère, with its typical aromas of warm spices, dark berry flavours and the perfect amount of smokiness.
Image by linkerjpatrick 

Red wine with grilled fish is an interesting challenge and you will certainly want to veer towards wines with lighter tannin, higher fruit content, and a hint of acidity to balance the natural oils of the fish. A nimble Pinot Noir or the fruitier, considerably lighter merlots can work well with lighter fish dishes.

If you are feeling particularly adventurous a chilled tawny port can serve as a delicious barbecue aperitif or a refreshing palate cleanser in between the mountains of charred meat.

There is a common misconception that white wine is a non-starter at barbeques but there is no need to confine your choices to just red wine. Your white wine choices should be experimental and adventurous.

Sauvignon Blanc, with its delicious and distinct tropical sharpness, is great with grilled vegetables or seafood such as shellfish. New Zealand continue to produce superb wines made from this well-travelled varietal and the zingingly fresh acidity, herbaceous quality and luscious tropical notes are perfect for summer salads or lightly barbequed white fish.

A slightly off-dry, aromatic Riesling with citrus notes and a flinty minerality works well with meat such as ribs, pork or chicken and particularly if there is spicy seasoning involved. This previously maligned varietal (courtesy of overproduction and lazy winemaking in the 1980s) has the capacity to slice through the heat with its liveliness and citrusy aromas.

An Italian Pinot Grigio is one of the most affordable and perfect summer wines due to its understated versatility when paired with food. California also produce plenty of excellent wines courtesy of this white grape version of Pinot Noir, and these wines are lovely accompaniments to the lighter styles of dishes at barbeques such as lightly grilled chicken or pasta dishes. At times this wine can be a little ‘wispy’ so chunky red meat is a bit of a non-starter but it is ideal for prawns, as is Portugal's Vinho Verde or an Albariño from Spain. 

Richer, rounder and softer styles of whites like Australian Chardonnays, South African Chenin Blancs, Sémillons and Viogniers all partner well with barbequed chicken and other slightly heavier meats if you are looking for a white with necessary substance.

Dry rosés are beautifully crisp, refreshing and actually make a lovely ally to ribs, barbecue chicken or a tangy brisket. Deep-coloured Spanish rosés tend to be elegant yet exuberant blends made for early consumption, and are certainly robust enough for the cuisine commonplace at barbeques.

Although richer and deeper rosés with a touch more punch are a better fit for barbequing, a classically pale Provencal rosé with its lovely coolness and gentle notes of redcurrant and watermelon is a perfect foil for prawns or grilled fish.

If you are really looking to push the boat out, Champagne or sparkling wine like Prosecco or Cava are more than a match for a summer barbeque, but the simple truth to wine pairing with outdoor summer fare is to not over think it, don’t spend too much and don’t be afraid to experiment with your choices.

Now all we need is the elusive sun to appear…
Main image by stevendepolo 

Written by: Ben Moss

Ben Moss 


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