Wines for End-of-Season Grilling

September 6, 2013
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By Charles B. Rubinstein

“Sunburn is very becoming, but only when it is even –
One must be careful not to look like a mixed grill.”
–Noel Coward


This summer has flown by and the traditional end-of-season cookouts are upon us as the calendar lets us know there’s only two weeks left until we officially begin using the word “fall.”

Grilling is not the time to worry about nuances of flavor in trying to determine the best wine to go with the usual assortment of food served at these events. Inexpensive wines that taste good and quench your thirst are the appropriate choice unless you are either insecure, foolhardy or a wine snob. Save your Burgundy, Bordeaux and young tannic reds for other occasions. There are plenty of inexpensive good tasting wines to choose from in the under $10 a bottle category, and raising the limit to $15 should make it easy to satisfy everyone.

Wine and food pairings are suggestions not iron rules. Wine works about the same way as the sauce on the grilled food. You don’t want the wine to overpower the food, and you don’t want the wine to be so weak that the food overpowers it. Some would say that barbecue is made for beer, and it’s hard to argue with that point of view. But barbecue is a good time to expand your horizons and pair it with wine. I have some guidelines that I follow, but they are not written in stone. Robust food calls for robust wines. I prefer a sweet wine with spicy food, because I find it tends to drop the spice a notch. Don’t limit yourself to one or two wines. It’s a good idea to have a wide selection on hand. That way each attendee is sure to find his or her favorite pairing. The wines that I will suggest in this column are all $15 or under.

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What almost everyone seems to forget when it comes to pairing wine with barbecue is sparkling wine. Don’t make that mistake. It’s a great mouth refresher. Here are two different types to consider – Cava from Spain and Prosecco from Italy. Seek out the following NV Cavas. Juvé y Camps Brut Rosé ($14) has a bouquet of rose petals and a fine refreshing acidity. Segura Viudes Brut Reserva ($8) has aromas of white fruit and hints of lime and pineapple on the palate. Freixenet Spumante ($10) is slightly sweet tasting with a balancing acidity. Among the NV Proseccos choose the following from the Veneto. Nino Franco Rustico Prosecco ($15) has an inviting peach aroma that follows through in the flavor. Caposaldo Prosecco Brut ($11) exhibits a stone minerality aroma with a hint of apple and a nice clean finish.

Zinfandel and barbecue are made for each other. Here’s a foreign version from a related grape: 2008 Layer Cake Primitivo ($14) from Apulia, Italy that will bring its own spice and charcoal aromas and flavors to the barbecue. From the United States choose from among the following Zinfandels: 2011 Ranch Zabaco Zinfandel Heritage Vines, Sonoma ($15) is a cornucopia of cherries and tobacco aromas and flavors, the 2011 Cline Cellars Zinfandel Ancient Vines, Central Coast ($15) has sweet berry fruit with a spice accent and the 2011 Bogle Zinfandel Old Vines, California ($10) is loaded with blackberry fruit flavor.

A good approach to pairing wine with grilled food is to think pink. Rosé suffers from being the quintessential compromise wine. It is like a split-level home in a market dominated by colonials and ranches. A sure sign of age is being able to remember the years when the slightly sweet, slightly fizzy Rosés of Lancer’s and Mateus, both made in Portugal, led the list of imported wine brands. Their popularity has waned dramatically. The Rosés that enjoy the best reputation among wine drinkers are those from southern France, particularly from the appellations of Tavel in the Rhone, and Bandol, Cassis, Côtes de Provence and Côteau d’Aix-en-Provence in their eponymous area. Good examples are, 2012 Triennes Rosé Provence ($14) with pronounced cranberry flavors, 2012 Villa des Anges Rosé Old Vines, Languedoc ($10) with wild strawberry flavors and Château De Segries Rosé, Tavel ($15) which is a substantial Rosé chock-full of black cherry flavor. A fine example from the United States is Charles & Charles Rosé, Columbia Valley with an orange peel aroma that continues into the flavor.

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A wine that is off the beaten track to match with grilled food is Gewürztraminer, which usually offers a little bit of sweetness and a splendid balance of spice. Good examples from the United States are, 2011 Hogue Gewürztraminer, Columbia Valley ($10) with apple and lime flavors, and 2011 Pacific Rim Gewurztraminer, Yakima Valley ($11) with a classic aroma of lychee that follows through in the flavor.

Pairing wines with grilled food is a good time to experiment so choose a wide assortment beyond those containing the grapes I mentioned. If you have questions or comments about wine write to me at The Two River Times™ or email me at

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