This coming weekend is Memorial Day in the USA, which means picnics, barbecues, and similar outdoor parties and get-togethers — it’s the unofficial beginning of the summer for most.
Chances are, you will be throwing or attending one of these outings, and also likely be eating something off an outdoor cooker, be it a grill, hibachi, pit, spit, or smoker. The food may range from the simple, all-American hot dogs and hamburgers to good ol’ southern BBQ chicken and ribs to a fish fry to shish kebabs to a roast pig. Naturally there will be a keg or a cooler full of beer, probably punch, and also some soft drinks such as soda, iced tea, or lemonade. But what about wine? People — in the USA, anyway — are drinking more wine than beer these days, but does that mean a selection of fine vintages should replace the time-honored tap?
Of course not. Beer is still a more pairable beverage when it comes to barbecue, with its easygoing quaffability and obtuse flavor profile — assuming the chosen brew is a popular, mass-produced lager (i.e., Budweiser, Coors, Rolling Rock, Corona, etc.). However, there’s no reason not to offer wine as an alternate (if you’re the host), and the gift of a bottle is a fine gesture as the guest. But what wine to choose?
If you’re the host, the choice of wine is easier, because you know what foods you’re serving. Use the same food-and-wine-matching sense you would at the dinner table — high acidity for fatty foods, red wines with red meats, etc. — but also consider one or two “cocktail” choices for drinking socially (i.e., a fat Chardonnay or jammy Shiraz). Also take into consideration the wine-savviness of your guests — are there geeks in the crowd? Pedestrians? Don’t waste the money on a Didier Daganeau Pouilly-Fume if a jug of Paul Masson or 1.5L of Yellow Tail will do the trick.
As a guest, it’s appropriate to offer a wine (or two) that you enjoy yourself. At the same time, try to bring something that will match with a wide array of dishes (simple whites, roses, easygoing reds) — particularly if you’re unaware of what is being served. By the same token, if it’s the type of party where you are bringing a dish, be sure to also bring its perfect pairing.
And what exact wine varieties are best for these outdoor fetes? Come back tomorrow to find out!