By Chef Steve Martson
I was recently invited to a friend’s house for an afternoon barbecue. I jovially asked what I could bring; “oh just some wine”, was the reply.
So this got me thinking what is the best wine to bring to a barbecue.
It’s not as easy as you may first think. The standard libation is a chilled six-pack of beer conveniently picked up en route. However, hopefully, if they are asking you to bring wine their culinary delights will extend beyond the casual backyard fare of hot dogs and hamburgers.
I have done a couple of stints at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York, and at Greystone in California. Some of this specific knowledge deals with chemistry — how cooking over direct heat affects the structure of meats and various products cooked in this manner. The subsequent chemical reaction is not so different from making wine.
Start with a humble grape then transform it into the popular nectar from the gods. Even if the chef is just the weekend variety it is important to understand the process of flavour transformation. So, this is a practical example of when the balance between chef and winemaker becomes one.
When selecting wines to accompany a barbecue, think BBQ — big, bold and quaffable. The wines should also be bursting of fruit and spices, hitting your nose with a wonderful punch; a little peppery with good acidity. Look for an alcohol level 13% plus. Please, no wimpy wines here; you will be disappointed if you try a light fruity chardonnay, for example. The food from the grill will bury the flavour of a lighter body wine.
In general, the searing will bring out the natural sweetness of the food. Imagine a bone-in, rib-eye steak simply brushed with olive oil then rubbed with coarse sea salt and cracked black pepper. Once on the grill you will instantly get the sweet aromas of the meat caramelizing — making your mouth water with ravenous anticipation. You will need something robust that satiates your senses. ACES 2009 Seven Deuce Red is definitely a great match. A big, red, blend of merlot, shiraz, and cabernets from Osoyoos small lots. It is barrelled in oak for an impressive 16 months. Having shared a couple of glasses of this delectable wine with owner Holger Clausen I know this wine will hold up against richly-seasoned, even smoked barbecue items.
Another winner is D’Angelo’s Tempranillo from the Naramata Bench. Spanish in origin and inspired by the flavourful cuisine served in Tapas bars; it is made in the Burgundy style. Tempranillo is arguably the most famous of Spain’s native grapes. It is a vibrant, aromatic varietal that offers spicy, red fruit aromas, and flavours.
The bottom line is when serving highly seasoned, and richly spiced foods, like grilled chicken or beef, fish and veggies you need to be as bold as their flavours. Choose a wine that is very fruit forward and full of pizzazz.
One final thing to remember is enjoy your choice of wine with your friends, no matter what ends up in the dishes on the patio table.