The Labour Day weekend is traditionally thought of as the last weekend of summer holidays which means it’s time to have people over for a barbecue before the warm weather turns to cold wet autumn. For me, a big part of planning a successful ‘cue is selecting the appropriate wine to partner your grilled fare.
Selecting the right wine to go with said fare starts by deciding the use to which you’re putting the wine. Will it serve as an aperitif to clear the dust of the road from your guests’ palates and stimulate their appetites? For that use, you need something simple and refreshing. Santa Margherita Pinot Grigio 2012, $17.95 is a simple but tasty white that will do the job well. Creekside Laura’s White 2011, Niagara, $18.95 (Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay Musqué, Gewürztraminer and Chardonnay) is more complex, but still manages the light refreshing character you’ll need to get folks ready for dinner.
How about wine for light foods like fish and seafood? You’ll need something light but intense with crisp acidity that will squeegee your palate between mouthfuls and make you hungry for the next bite. My favourite wines for that use are Sauvignon Blancs and Rieslings. Château de Sancerre Sancerre 2011, $23.95, or Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc 2012, NZ, 2012, $16.95 will perform well in this role. Creekside 2012 Backyard Block Sauvignon Blanc, $17.95 is a good Canadian candidate. Most German Rieslings are at least somewhat sweet, but their brisk acidity balances the sugar and makes them perfect fish wines. Bollig-Lehnert Trittenheimer Apotheke Riesling Spatlese (late harvest) 2011 at $20.95 will do the trick. From Canada, Elevation 2011, Vineland Estates Winery, St. Urban Vineyard, $19.95, is a winner.
If you’re looking for wines to use with medium-weight foods like chicken and pork or firm assertive fish like swordfish, two types will work. Rich white bottlings with good freshness and enough delicacy not to wipe out the meat are an obvious choice. Try Ken Forrester Old Vine Reserve Chenin Blanc 2011, $16.95 from South Africa’s king of Chenin, or Lailey Chardonnay 2011, $19.95 from one of Niagara’s most accomplished winemakers. The other category to use with medium food is rosé or light red wine.
Dryness, freshness, minerality and fruit are the essential traits of a good rosé. Take your pick from Provence, Spain or Portugal. Moncigale Minéral Rosé Bandol 2012 at $18.95 is a good example. Canadian versions can be very good too. Château de Trinquevedel Tavel Rosé is a graceful but intense pink wine.
My favourite light reds are Pinot Noirs, especially from Burgundy. I find them a little overpriced right now, and Gamay, the grape of Beaujolais, can be put to the same use. Domaine de la Garodière Morgon 2011will show you what a good (i.e. non-Nouveau) Beaujolais can do. From Niagara, 13th Street Sandstone Old Vines Gamay Noir 2010 $22.96 will do you proud.
Now for the big boys of the BBQ: ribs, steaks, and other roast red meats, perhaps finished with a robust sauce. For these foods, you’ll need red wines with tannic grip to blot up the fat in your meat and big fruit extract to stand up to the intense flavours of the meat. Salice Salentino 2009 Riserva Leone de Castris, $19.95 is great for this use with friendly tannins, cherry fruit and mineral/leather grace notes. If you must have Cabernet, try South Africa’s Cathedral Cellar Tryptich 2008, $15.95 (Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz and Merlot). Sonoma County’s Ravenswood Old Vines Vintner`s Blend Zinfandel 2011, $17.95 is delicious in that odd Zin way. A good Niagara wine for this use is Wildass 2011 Red, $19.95 (Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Tannat), produced by the highly regarded Stratus winery.
Hamburgers and hot dogs call for the same kinds of wines as red meats. If you want to spend less than the cost of my examples for that use, bring a list of my suggestions to your wine store and ask the staff to recommend something similar at a lower price. Beer also works well with these basic BBQ items. My current favourite is Weihenstephaner Hefeweissbier, $3.05, a snappy refreshing German wheat beer.
For vegetarian dishes, the use of wine is to complement the food without bulldozing it. Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand is notorious for smelling like green beans and asparagus. South African Sauv Blancs have a similar character. California`s Ménage à Trois White, Folie à Deux Winery, $17.95, a blend of Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc and Moscato will also work, especially if there is fruit in your salad.
So there you have it. Determine the use for your BBQ wine, learn the characteristics that best serve each use, find a few examples and talk to your wine store staff. Then get the coals (or gas) going, and party while the weather still permits!