By Barbara Hay ~
Soon, pools across America will open, shorts and linen everything will make their appearance. Outdoor grills will fire up to celebrate the Shore’s official start to summer and the outdoor drinking season!
Even though beer is the go-to backyard beverage, we like to pair backyard wine favorites with our grilled meat, veggies and seafood. We have wines to pair with BBQ, wines for sipping in the sun, wines to complement food off the grill, and more importantly, wines for hanging out and chatting until the wee hours.
If you planning on festive outdoor holiday celebrations, just remember that your Memorial Day barbecue is no place for aged Bordeaux.
The first step is to look for wines that will complement flavors or balance out fat: “smoke with oak” or “acid and tannin” with fat. So whether you’re grilling fish and chicken or burgers and steak, choose a wine that’s equal in weight to the food, and that has enough acid, oak, and/or tannins to match it.
Here’s a quick (and inexpensive) wine guide to matching your grilling menu:
For barbecue chicken, look for a juicy red with plush fruit and light tannins to be a gentle partner to the bold, tangy sauce and smoky grilled chicken. Try a Primitivo blend from southern Italy. Recent DNA fingerprinting has proven that California’s Zinfandel is the same as southern Italy’s Primitivo. The difference is that Primotivo is often more food-friendly, even though it has the same lush fruit and spice as its California cousin. A good one for the backyard party is Cantele Primitivo Salento with its gentle tannins, impressive acidity, classic delicacy and alcoholic combine with the spicy-sweet barbecue sauce flavors and hint of smoke from the grill. The roasted fruit character, once forceful comes across as elegant.
If Cedar-Plank Salmon is your choice, remember it is rich in healthy fat, so it needs an equally rich wine. The fish oil coats your mouth, so it works like a charm with a buttery chardonnay. Toasted Head Chardonnay is an affordable, buttery Chardonnay with aromas of butterscotch, bourbon, and pears. It has a creamy finish with flavors such as caramelized peaches and custard, plus, it has a fun label featuring a Grizzly Bear breathing fire!
Okay, who doesn’t love a freshly grilled burger? The only issue is burgers are not steak, so they don’t need a colossal, in-your-face California cabernet or Left Bank Bordeaux. Burgers want a bright and juicy red. Something full-bodied and elegant like Don Miguel Gascon Malbec, from Mendoza, Argentina with its soft, round tannins, layered flavors of blackberry, blueberry, dark cherry, and a hint of mocha, complements the burger’s beefiness, as well as any veggies that are likely part of the equation.
Grilled pork chops should be juicy, especially if they’re brined before cooking. This meat can stand up to a red wine of some substance and tannin, like Concha Y Toro Casillero Del Diablo Carmenere, from Chile. This “devil” of a wine is perfect for a tasty grilled summer barbecue with its chocolate, coffee, spice, raspberry and blackberry flavors.
Side salads and grilled vegetables: As a general rule, match rosés, tart whites, and lighter reds like pinot noir with salads and veggies.
From beef to chicken to fish to veggies, the options are endless when it comes to what you can throw on the grill. But no matter what you choose, you need a wine that will stand up to char. When in doubt, think bubbly. Sparkling wines are versatile, effervescent, and festive. There’s no need to get fussy when popping open a bottle of sparkling wine, you don’t need fancy glasses or decanting—just pull the cooler out, offer options, and everyone will have fun. So, it’s safe to offer sparkling wine, because like salad itself, bubbly is light, refreshing, and infinitely satisfying on a summer evening.
Here’s to every possible excuse to sip beneath the sun.