Gone are the frozen burgers – BBQs have become a lot more sophisticated. So do they therefore deserve something more than a soggy and fruit-laded Pimms? In short – yes.
There was a time when going along to a BBQ meant facing burnt on the outside, raw on the inside chicken drumsticks, frozen burgers and slightly dubious looking sausages. God help you if you were a veggie – either forgotten about or swivelled in the direction of an anaemic-looking salad that even rabbits would avoid.
Today, the humble barbie has developed into a more sophisticated affair. Now it’s char-grilled sea-bass, seared halloumi and vegetable kebabs, gourmet-style burgers – meat or Portobello mushroom – and succulent steak fillets that fill the menu.
So, does all this refinement in the food stakes deserve something more than a soggy and fruit-laded Pimms or a fairly unexceptional lime-wedged beer?
In short – yes. So before sparking those coals, let your wine choices guide your next grill time:
BBQ’s rich smokiness coats everything delicious – and fuller, fruiter wines provide a good balance to those strong chargrilled notes. If you are a fan of the bolder styles, head straight to those countries blessed with warmer sun – California, Australia, Argentina, Chile and Southern Italy/ France/ Spain.
Napa Valley Zinfandel, Australian Shiraz or Argentinean Malbec
You may think these wines are too heavy for the summertime, but the full-on fruit flavours from the likes of a Napa Valley, Oz Shiraz or Argentinean Malbec work perfectly with seared, juicy and unadorned barbecued meats like sausages, burgers and steaks.
For the veggies, these types of wines also do wonders with grilled red vegetables, intensifying their sweet flavours.
Californian, Chilean or Australian Chardonnay
BBQ chicken and a self-assured Chardonnay have a love-love relationship. Pick one from the likes of Chile, California or Australia, which tend to be brasher in style. For the veggies and sides – a heavily buttered, grilled corn on the cob completes this three-way.
Barbera and other big Italian Reds
Barbera and other big Italian reds – such as Montepulcianno d’ Abruzzo – provide the perfect cartel for grilled tomatoes. The tomatoes rich flavours are turned up a notch by the coal heat, bringing these deeper reds into play. Like tomatoes, Italian wines have high levels of acidity and ‘Acid + Acid’ is a big tick in the pairing box (note – if your wine is less acidic than your food it will just taste flat).
Rioja/ Spanish Tempranillo
Aubergines and red peppers brushed with loads of olive oil burst with deliciously rich, deep-flavours when on the grill. Red Rioja or other Spanish Tempranillo are ideal here; Span’s thick-skinned native grape not only complements the fruit and earthly flavours, but the high tannin and high acidity balances out any oiliness.
If you prefer something a bit lighter, adding Mediterranean flavours such as thyme, rosemary, garlic, lemon and olive oil to your BBQ dishes paves the way for more refreshing wines.
Marrying seafood with white wine is obvious. Naked grilled fish (with just a squirt of lemon for dignity) goes well with a crisper Chardonnay – like Chablis – complementing rather than masking the delicate taste. Chablis is also a fan of a lemon-seasoned grilled chicken and shellfish.
Salty delights like grilled sardines, halloumi and shellfish need high-acid wines and the South of France Whites and Rosé provide that. They also confidently cut through the oiliness of fish, leaving the palate ready to engage with the next mouthful.
Picpoul de Pinet is a good and popular choice – but a new wine to try would be a Rosé from the Faugeres region. Both their Rosé and reds are outstanding and it will no doubt become new kid on the block – so buy now while they are still good value.