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Spring is in the air! And what better way to celebrate it then with friends, family, food and wine outdoors?

Spring can be a wonderful season: cities hum with the sound of family and friends moving outside to drink and dine on pavements cafes, the weather can be gorgeous but not stifling and BBQ’s are dusted off and fired up. It’s time to start marinating, planning and smoking your favorite foods; alfresco dining is one of the real joys of the first warm spring weather, and something we should all do as much as possible, while that sun lasts!

Traditional wisdom dictates that beer is the safest bet for BBQ’s, as it won’t clash and can cope with the cornucopia of tastes often presented. But to negate wine is to miss out on some potentially spectacular and delicious combinations – a great wine pairing can transform a mundane BBQ into a memorable one. Wine can work extremely well with a variety of BBQ foods, you just need to remind yourself of a few facts and recommendations for a memorable pairing.

So above all, don’t waste your prized bottle of Vega Sicilia or St-Emilion on a BBQ. Smoked, grilled food needs robust, fruit driven and easy drinking wines, fine wines and certainly older wines will be smothered by the strong flavors and aromas. Equally, it’s important to remember that often you are pairing a wine with the sauce, not the meat or fish.  Strong, especially spicy sauces destroy many red wines, off-dry lighter whites are a safer bet. Which is why BBQ wine lists should always include plenty of options from hot climates as those riper, sweeter fruit flavors match the heat, smoke and spice of a BBQ perfectly. Just like Indian cuisine, sugar is your friend, not enemy and away remember that smoking and blackening transforms the food.

Prosecco is the ideal way to start your BBQ feast. Who could resist the charms of a racy, pear drop flavored glass of fizz sat in the sun on a Saturday afternoon? With its light, not too acidic style it makes the perfect alfresco aperitif, try Bisol’s Crede Prosecco for a real treat.

But what to serve with your first course of juicy, BBQ king prawns or shellfish?  A chilled glass of Chablis, or even better rose is simply heaven, contrasting nicely with the warm, savory flavors of grilled shellfish. It’s a terrible cliché but also an undeniable fact: nothing matches the vast range of BBQ flavors like a chilled glass of rose. It works as a party aperitif, with salads/seafood and won’t clash with strong meat dishes. It’s the perfect all-rounder and cannot fail to please everybody – our favorite is  Chateau D’Esclans Whispering Angel Rosé, packed full of red fruits, almonds, vanilla, so heaven in a glass!

If your BBQ includes some gorgeous, fresh sardines or other oily fish then only one wine will do: a chilled glass of Galician Albariño. This racy, citrus infused wine is a marvelous match for oily fish, as the usually refreshing acidity of an Albarino cuts the the fish’s oiliness and leaves the palate desperate for another glass. Seek out the wines of Bodegas Fillaboa for a reliable, fruit-driven Albariño wine, typically displaying plenty of moreish pineapple, apple and citrus notes on the palate.

Aromatic, un-oaked and clean-cut whites like Albariño also work fantastically well with tomato based salads, asparagus and other salad vegetables. Kiwi Sauvignon Blanc is the standout choice and works equally well as a thirst quencher.

Wither Hills do a fresh, vibrant and great value example. In contrast, grilled vegetables like red peppers and courgettes need a completely different pairing, their smoky, sweet flavors require a full-bodied and ripe red. Modern, fruit-driven Rioja is ideal, as is new-world Tempranillo. The tannin and silkiness inherent to Tempranillo balance out the oil and sweetness nicely. Give the Valenciso Rioja Reserva a try, packed full of delicious red berry fruit, with just a hint of spice, it’s a princely wine for a memorable BBQ.

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Of course the mainstay – unless you’re a vegetarian – of any great BBQ is meat. This is where your options are considerable, as plenty of both European and new-world wines can handle the variety of flavors floating around, from chicken to rib-eye steaks. But remember that poultry always takes on a lot of flavor from the BBQ, so you need a suitably robust wine to match. South African Pinotage handles BBQ Chicken, even adorned with a smoky BBQ sauce, very well; try Ken Forrester’s Petit Pinotage. If, however, you’ve been sparing with the sauce then BBQ chicken deserves a rich, full bodied Californian Chardonnay, or perhaps Australian. Marimar Estate Don Miguel Vineyard Chardonnay from Russian River Valley would do nicely! Such a wine would also love grilled pork chops and chicken marinated in herbs. Indeed, it would go perfectly with this recipe for Mexican chicken.

What self-respecting BBQ is without succulent hamburgers and delicious steaks? Their rich, caramelized, smoky flavors are divine and cry out for similarly spicy, full-bodied new-world reds. Australian Shiraz from Barossa is a classic choice, that fruit-driven profile and acidity matching grilled foods perfectly. Another contender for a pairing made in gastronomic heaven is Malbec, Argentina’s greatest success story. Top examples are bursting with racy, plummy fruit and that touch of peppery spice ensures that Malbec takes kindly to steaks and burgers. Our top choice – Zuccardi Serie A Malbec.

Zinfandel also comes into its own at BBQs, especially if heavy sauces are present. Piquant sauces can overpower even ripe Shiraz and Malbec, but Zinfandel cuts through the richness and spice wonderfully. Ravenswood old vine Zinfandel is a very safe bet. However, if you lean toward Indian or Oriental sauces – Tandoori is currently a real favorite – then you’ll need something very specific. The flavors aren’t easy to match with wine, but Loire reds or again oaky new-world Chardonnay usually comes out on top.

Finally, Rioja Crianza in general, for instance Juan Alcorta (the number one selling Crianza in Northern Spain) is a great, good value bet, especially with grilled veggies and lamb chops.

Happy grilling and sipping this Spring!

 

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Cellar Tours

Cellar Tours is a Luxury Travel Specialist, operating since 2003 and offering exclusive Mercedes chauffeured Gourmet Vacations in Chile, France, Italy, Ireland, Portugal, South Africa, and Spain. We specialize in luxurious custom designed vacations, events and incentives related to food and wine. We are proud members of Slow Food, UNAV (Travel Agency Association in Spain), and the IACP (International Association of Culinary Professionals).

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