By Ryan Gilchrist
Two of our favourite things to do during Ontario’s all too short summer season are grill and enjoy wine. Now that we’re finally in the thick of the backyard season, let’s take a quick dive into how best to enjoy the two together. Though we are firm believers in ‘drink what you like with the food you like’, there are some very basic tenants that we should think about when considering which bottles to uncork when firing up the barbecue:
As much as you may love to ‘nerd out’ on a complex, aged and/or thought-provoking wine, this is not the time to do so. Much of the nuance will be overpowered by the often sweet saucy fare from the grill, not to mention the whiffs of fresh cut grass and petrol from your neighbours’ noisy mower (nod to Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling) next door. Instead, choose wines that offer upfront flavours and immediate pleasure. This is not the time to contemplate a wine’s style of tannins or tertiary character. It’s a time to simply enjoy well made, delicious wine.
Most of the food that comes off of the grill is big and bold; it is important that the wine served be equally full in both body and intensity. Probably the most important consideration when choosing a BBQ wine…fruit! This cannot be overstated. You want to choose wines with ample fruit character. And while all wine offers up fruity flavours, some show more than others. All that fruit marries beautifully with the charred umami flavours that come from grilling. That’s not to say you shouldn’t or can’t choose wines with lovely secondary characteristics like leather, cocoa and minerality. It just means that, ideally, the fruit should be the star of the show.
If you’re like us, you enjoy grilling lots of different foods at once, all with varying textures, flavours and spice levels. And more often than not, these very different foods are served up alongside a single bottle of wine. For this reason, it is important to choose wines that are versatile pairing partners that work with a wide variety of foods. To us, that means selecting wines with lovely fresh acidity and lower levels of tannin. These types of wines are great at cleansing the palate and keep you coming back for another sip…or another glass! Acidity in wine is often misunderstood, conjuring up memories of shrill, tart wines with little else to offer. However, when well made, a wine’s acidity is barely noticeable—even when the level is high—and is in balance with the other basic components of the wine (fruit, tannin, alcohol and body). Typically, wines from the Old World offer up the kind of acidity we’re talking about here. But New World wines from cooler regions or from areas with elevation also possess this freshness and versatility. With proper acidity, even a full-bodied, high-alcohol red wine can seem refreshing in summer’s warm months.