Scottish Field wine columnist Peter Ranscombe fires off five brilliant bottles for barbecues.
I DON’T mind admitting that my mouth was watering when I read John Barclay’s barbecue recipes.
Although I’m a bit of a woose when it comes to outdoor cooking – I’ve been known to grill sausages and burgers indoors before finishing them off on the coals – nothing quite beats that barbecue taste on a warm summer’s evening.
When it comes to wine, barbecues can present a challenge – we need wines that will cut through the smoky flavour, but without feeling too heavy and structured in the sunshine.
These reds – and a rosé interloper – are up to the task, with some classic barbecue matches in the form of malbec, shiraz and zinfandel.
Exquisite Collection Organic Argentinian Malbec 2019
What grows together goes together, so the steak and chimichurri combo will sing with this organic malbec. This was one of the stars for me at Aldi’s spring tasting, one of the few big retailers to show its wines to the press before lockdown. I was really impressed with its dark chocolate and light wood smoke aromas and its fresh and fruity blackcurrant and raspberry jam flavours. While this example hailed from the Mendoza region, Argentina isn’t a one-trick pony when it comes to malbecs, as Phil Crozier explained a couple of autumns ago. Plus, there are plenty of exciting malbecs to explore beyond Argentina too.
Rich & Spicy Shiraz 2019
Marks & Spencer
Part of Markies’ new entry-level range, this South East Australian shiraz has sweet and warm dark fruit flavours and enough tannic grip to tackle wings or burgers. The £5 range from M&S marks a return to form for the retailer, which has struggled at this price point in recent years. The rosé and Spanish red from the range also caught my eye, and both of those would suit quite nicely at a barbecue too. Blending wines from across a massive region allows Australia to produce such competitively-priced entry-level shiraz, but scratch beneath the surface and there are bargains to be found in individual regions too, like the 2019 The Second Fleet Shiraz (£6.99) from the Limestone Coast in Lidl’s next Wine Tour promotion.
The Winery by Laneberg Maximilian 2019
The first red from winemaker Elise Lane in Gateshead – aye, you read that right, Gateshead – has chicken-friendly freshness. Exploring Lane’s wines was one of the highlights of this year’s lockdown English Wine Week, especially her pinot grigio or “Pinot Geordie” to its friends. Maximilian is made from regent, a German variety well-suited to England’s cooler climes. Lots of blackcurrant flavour here, plus a lovely smoked meat note, which instantly gave me a barbecue cue.
Finest Pinot Grigio Blush 2019
Great-value Italian rosé where, in the hands of the Cavit co-operative, pinot grigio will go from shy wallflower to the centre of attention at any barbecue. Cooking outdoors doesn’t have to centre around red wine; rosé can be an excellent alternative, combining the freshness of white wine with a touch of the structure of red. Watery, wishy-washy pink wine won’t stand up to meat, but examples like those from Cavit have enough body to handle chicken or sausages.
Eberle Paso Robles Zinfandel 2017
Splash-out worthy Californian zinfandel, which offers that intoxicating mix of ripe black cherry fruit and sweet milk chocolate richness. Eberle’s zin was one of the highlights of my takeaway odyssey last month with Virgin Wines. Steak and zin is an under-rated pleasure, and lush wines like this are also ideal with greasy burgers. If you’re adding chili into the mix then high alcohol levels – around 14% or 15% – are a no-no as they’ll inflame the heat even further; instead, try something slightly off-dry, perhaps a rounded white like a viognier or a gewürztraminer.
Read more of the full versions of Peter Ranscombe’s Wine to Dine columns on The Grape & The Grain, his drinks blog on the Scottish Field website, at https://www.scottishfield.co.uk/category/grapegrain/