Wine columnist Clare Morris has over 10 years’ experience in the drinks industry consulting with, hotels, restaurants, pubs and bars across the UK. She is currently studying for a Diploma at the WSET London Wine and Spirit School.
This month I’ve been feeling pretty hungry most of the time. I’m putting this down to the fact that virtually every evening the tantalising smell of a barbecue comes across the air. In my book it’s one of the best smells in the world – reminiscent of lazy, warm evenings, great social events and damn tasty food.
Naturally, we all know there are some food disasters to be had when it comes to open fires. I usually find that most can be rescued but there’s often a sad, lonely sausage sitting cremated at the end of the event. But even for those a bit less charcoaled, finding something to drink that stands up to the powerful flavours can be difficult to find.
Look out for wines with big flavours – ripe, juicy fruit, smoky and spicy reds and lots of tannin and intensity. Wines with lots of ‘structure’ as the boffins will tell you. Personally I always think it’s a good idea to try a wine before you serve it to your guests (great excuse!) so here’s a few excellent barbecue wines for you to try out and about before you get the fire going at home.
Firstly for a spicy red option. Etchart Privado Malbec is incredibly easy to drink but weighty enough for that all important barbecue match. This is a superb example of the style and quality of wine coming out of Argentina at the moment – it’s easy to see why this region saw 23 per cent growth in the UK last year. At refurbished Black Boy pub in Shinfield, Reading, you can enjoy the newly-expanded patio area in the sunshine and get yourself in barbecue mode.
Now for a smoky number. Pinotage is the ultimate smoky red. A real Marmite wine with most people I know, but when you find a good example it’s hard not to like. With such a distinctive, intense flavour it’s ideal for barbecue food and the Fish Hoek Pinotage from Western Cape, South Africa, is a great example. You can sample at the excellent La Perle restaurant in Milford on Sea – maybe with the Cassoulet de Tolouse for some wonderfully rich flavours to partner the wine.
My last red is an obvious choice – a big Aussie Shiraz. Made in the sunshine with one purpose in mind – the barbecue. Leasingham Magnus Shiraz delivers everything you’re looking for in this grape, with chocolate, black pepper and red berry flavours. Try a bottle at the Swan in Nibley just outside Yate, for good pub food, summer drinks – and of course, some great wines.
Whites don’t always get associated with barbecue food, but if you find one with enough fruit flavours then it’s a good option for char-grilled chicken, prawns and veggie options too. Chardonnay’s always a good choice if you get a nice rich, fruity wine from a warm climate. As an alternative, try something like a Verdejo. Analivia Verdejo is from Rueda in Spain, South West of Rioja. It’s not a common grape variety across the world so not as well known as something like Chardonnay – but equally delicious. With peach, pear and lemon flavours it’s a great variety for barbecues. Head to Picture House East in Clifton, Bristol, and pair the Verdejo with some Serrano ham. A perfect Spanish pairing.