Wine for the grilling
May 23, 2008
Once this whole winter thing really comes to an end, the air will fill with that enchanting aroma of barbecues. While I know that beer is a traditional mainstay of when grilling, there are other beverages to consider. Don’t get me wrong, I love beer as much as the next guy, but for the sake of variety, I like to throw a little bit of wine in the mix. There is a host of wines out there that can be both really great with that charred flavor of barbecue and priced within a range that is actually pretty competitive with beer.
I do have a thing for bubbles in warm environments, and since when looking beyond beer for that effervescance, we must look to sparking wines. Champagne is definitely ruled out as the least expensive. Champagne in the state is $35 per bottle, and not that exactly close to the cost of a typical six pack. France’s Loire Valley, however, makes some extremely delicious sparkling wines at very fine values. The Bouvet Signature Brut ($14) is a really tasty little bubbly that is made primarily from the Chenin Blanc variety, also known as "Pineau de la Loire." It is bone dry, crisp, and packed with nice mineral and ripe fruit characteristics.
Red wines, especially those from California, really that complement that smokey flavor of food from the grill the best. It is the Zinfandels that make the wines of California among the most unique in the world. The grape is a close genetic relative of the Puglian variety of Primitivo, but in California they take on a ripe, spicy, and smoky flavor that is just enchanting. By nature the state is a hot climate and its low water variety fruits have a tendency to produce wines with higher alcohol contents. I find that many are too high, however, and lose their character, but there are several that carry fine balance. I have really fallen in love with the Rosenblum Paso Robles Zin ($15) with its meaty body and spicy flavors.
Among the spiciest varieties, Syrah aka Shiraz is the one that has the greatest potential for true greatness. The wines of the Northern Rhone, the historic home of these varieties, are among the finest and most unique in the world. They are indeed out of the barbecue wine price range, still there are a host of great Syrah and Shiraz wines dotted throughout the New World priced within reason. One of my all time favorite Syrah producers is Qupé from the Santa Barbara region and their Central Coast cuvee is as consistent as can be. For $17 Utah is selling the ’06 and it is one of my favorite vintages for this wine. It is a little more subtle and nuanced than some of the hotter vintages. Hard to beat it for the value.
Zev Rovine is a Park City sommelier. His wine education comes from the American Sommelier Association in New York City. If you have any wine queries or comments, he is easily contacted via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org .