Ok, it appears that Spring made only a brief appearance this year, and we’re just gonna go ahead and jump right into Summer. And that’s fine…although if August shows up in June, what does that portend for the Fall?
Anyway, a more pressing issue is…what’s the best wine when you’re grilling outside?
Unsurprisingly, I have very firm opinions on this topic, because:
- I grill,
- I drink wine, and
- I have firm opinions about everything
So having stated my qualifications, let’s get down to it.
- Zinfandel: Zinfandel is a wine of the 80’s. It was interesting then, before ripeness became the standard and lazy retailers figured out that if they quoted some numerical value (otherwise known as an opinion) then some people would think the wine was good. I know, silly, right? But the real problem with Zinfandel is that the dense, jammy fruit buries all food flavors. So, it’s the perfect wine for a well-done piece of shoe leather.
- Cabernet Sauvignon; Yeah, uh, no. The flavors actually match up fine. The graphite, leather, smoke. Yep, all work. But, oh so very boring and pretentious. Serving an expensive Napa Cab with burgers doesn’t make you the neighborhood wine expert, it suggests that you still prefer leisure suits.
I can see why you would think so, but no…
- Syrah/Shiraz: Did you read what I said about Zinfandel? Same…unless its a Northern Rhone Syrah, in which case, is an inspired choice but not a correct one. The brooding, dense, dark nature of Northern Rhone Syrah is not right for the buoyancy of a summer barbecue.
- Pinot Noir: Pinot Noir should never be served outdoors. (just kidding). But, it’s a wine of grace and elegance and subtlety. So, uh, no.
- Sauvignon Blanc: Crisp, bright, citrusy. All good, right? Sure, if you’re grilling and serving vegetables. With grilled meats and fish? Not so much.
On the right path…
- Rhone whites: Good idea! The wines are weighty, interesting, and adventurous. The problem? They can be a bit ‘hard’ and unlovely and challenging. It’s a barbecue…do you really want your guests pondering the wines?
- Grenache: Another good idea! Bright, juicy, herbal, peppery, fruity and earthy are all attributes that describe Grenache from Spain, Australia and France. That all works with the barbecue theme. It’s a safe choice. A bit too safe…I mean the wines are absolutely mainstream. Dream big!
- Rosé: Not categorically wrong, but…rosé is a type of wine (uh, like red or white), not a specific wine. Therefore, all rosé is not the same. And while some rosés (like from Beaujolais or Rioja) have the weight and richness to vie with grilled meats, most would get buried. But the more important reason is that Rosé is not a summer wine! Sure, drink in summer, or winter, or anytime, just not with barbecue.
And the clear cut winner is…
That’s right! The wine that the wine cognoscenti love to hate. But everything about the wine makes it perfect for the barbecue. Its big, lush, rich and sexy. The caramel, vanilla, apple flavors match up perfectly to the smokiness of grilled food. Coconut, popcorn and butter with corn on the cob? Hell yes! The (somewhat) crisp finish also cleans up your palate. It’s got anti-snob snob appeal as its still the wine of the masses (and secretly, the wine of the classes). It’s delicious. It’s everyone’s guilty pleasure wine because we know that we’re supposed to hate it since everyone loves it. Barbecue is not about sophistication and perfect pairings (although, I will admit, the pairing is spot on), it’s about relaxation and laughter and spilling mustard on your shirt. Big, ripe, oaky California Chardonnay is loud and gauche and ridiculous. It’s perfect.