After reading Picnic and Barbecue Wines – Part 1, you should have a handle on what makes for good wine selection for this Memorial Day weekend — as well as any other outdoor food fest you enjoy this summer. Now, I’ll suggest some specific wines.
Rose / Pink Wines
Personally speaking, I find pink wines absolutely perfect for barbecues and picnics (and I’m man enough to admit it) — for three reasons. First, they’re easy and light, fitting in with the casual atmosphere; second, pink wines tend to have mild flavor profiles and good acid levels, allowing for varied food matching; and third, they’re best enjoyed chilled, and therefore refreshing on a warm / hot afternoon.
When choosing a rose, stay away from White Zinfandel, unless you know for sure people in the party enjoy it. Most White Zins have a sugary flavor that clashes with many foods (though that same sweet element may be OK for foiling very spicy dishes). Instead, look for dry rose. The most reliable dry pink wines come from Spain (which are often labeled “Rosado”) and the southern regions of France — though there are plenty of good bottles from other areas as well (for instance, California and Portugal have some goodies). Go to the Spain aisle first for the best values, and look for “Navarra” somewhere on the label — that’s a region well-known for rose wine. If you don’t see one from Navarra, don’t fret, as other Spanish regions make fine rosado as well. Then walk up the French wine aisle and look for pink bottles. The best-known rose from France is Tavel, and is likely to have a light pink/orange, almost salmon color. No matter which region you choose from, be sure to get the freshest vintage possible (2006 or 2005 is ideal right now), as pink wines tend to lose their bright, fresh flavors quickly. Here are some of my favorites:
Mas de Gourgonnier Rose (France), Pink Criquet (Bordeaux, France), Sofia Pinot Noir Rose (California), Vega Sindoa (Spain), Guigal Tavel (France), Delas Tavel (France), Domaine Ott Rose (France).
For many, the best option for an outdoor party is a nice chilled white wine — partially because a cold beverage is most appropriate on a sunny day, and also because white wines tend to match well with a number of different dishes. Best bets:
- Sauvignon Blanc from France (esp. Sancerre or Pouilly-Fume), New Zealand, South America, or California (make sure it’s unoaked)
- Chablis from France (not from California!)
- Vouvray or Muscadet from France
- Pinot Grigio, Orvieto, Soave, Vermentino, or Verdicchio from Italy
- Pinot Blanc from France or Italy (also labeled as Pinot Bianco)
- Riesling from Germany — make sure it’s dry; look for “Kabinett” on the label
- Albarino or Rueda from Spain
- Gruner Veltliner from Austria
Some suggestions: Sartarelli Verdicchio Classico, Fair Valley Sauvignon Blanc (South Africa), Bruni Vermentino “Plinio”, Domaine Seguinot Bordet Chablis AC (France), Norton Sauvignon Blanc (Argentina), Brander Sauvignon Blanc (California), Masi Masianco Pinot Grigio (Italy), Argiolas Costalomino Vermentino (Italy), Mount Nelson Sauvignon Blanc (NZ), Clean Slate Riesling (Germany), Pierre Boniface Apremont (France), Basa Rueda Blanco (Spain), Las Brisas Rueda (Spain), Bodegas Aldial “Naia” (Spain)
You can go two ways with red wine at a barbecue: get a bottle to go with everything, or find something specific to burgers (or steaks, if they’ll be on the grill). When trying to match with everything, the easiest route is a bottle of Beaujolais — preferably a Cru Beaujolais, which means you’ll pay somewhere between $12-25, and the label will include one of these names on it: Brouilly, Chenas, Chiroubles, Cote de Brouilly, Fleurie, Julienas, Morgon, Moulin-a-Vent, Regnie, or Saint-Amour. Any of those appellations can be chilled, and will match with a wide variety of foods — and will go particularly well with grilled white meats such as pork and chicken (i.e., bbq ribs, shish-kebab). Beaujolais-Villages is OK, too, though not as interesting as a Cru. Whatever you do, don’t get a Beaujolais Nouveau — its shelf death was mid-January. The brand that is most likely to be seen in stores is Georges Duboeuf, aka “The King of Beaujolais”. Louis Jadot is also reliable — but don’t be afraid to try different brands, as you may find a gem (if there’s a Beaujolais other than Duboeuf or Jadot on the shelf, chances are the store’s wine buyer found something he/she thinks is special).
Matching a wine with burgers is fairly easy, and should be an inexpensive exercise. Simple French reds such as Cotes-du-Rhone or Minervois work nicely, as do soft red Zinfandels from California and Shiraz from Australia. If you limit yourself to a price range of $9-$14, you will likely find that most of these wines will be excellent for burgers: Merlot, Shiraz / Syrah, Zinfandel, Barbera, Cabernet Sauvignon (particularly soft ones from South America), Malbec, Garnacha, Monastrell / Mourvedre, Dolcetto, Nero d’Avola, and Petite Sirah.
Some of my all-time favorite red wines for burgers and barbecue are: Wrongo Dongo, Delas Cotes-du-Rhone “Saint-Esprit” (France), Domaine Cros Minervois, Vinos Pinol Ludovicus (Spain), Quinta de Parrotes Alenquer Tinto (Portugal), Chateau La Roque Pic Saint Loup, Croix du Mayne Cahors, Spadina Nero d’Avola, Chateau Calbet Cabardes, Kanonkop Kadette (South Africa), Mas de Guiot Grenache-Syrah, Rock Rabbit Syrah, Domaine de Gournier Merlot, Veramonte Cabernet Sauvignon (Chile), Elsa Bianchi Malbec (Argentina), Juan Benegas Malbec (Argentina), Kermit Lynch Cotes-du-Rhone (France), Punto Final Malbec Reserve (Argentina), Geyser Peak Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot (California), Castano Monastrell (Spain), Vinum Cellars PETS Petite Sirah