It’s barbecue season again, so make sure your wine selection can handle the heat. Christine Austin has some advice.
What is it about barbecues that brings out the masterchef in men? At the mere mention of a barbecue those who are quite happy to sit on the sofa while Sunday lunch is prepared are suddenly transformed into apron-wearing experts in butchery, sausages and the temperature of their charcoal. If a glass of wine can be provided for the chef while he is master of the marinades, then life seems to be complete.
So with Father’s Day tomorrow it is time to clean the rust off the barbecue and make sure it is ready to fire up. And if the weather doesn’t oblige sufficiently to eat outside, there is still something special about the slightly charred, spice-dusted flavours of sausages and steak even if you have to eat indoors.
And with the prospect of a whole summer of barbecues ahead, here are some suggestions of wines to pour alongside the food.
I was bowled over by the crisp, zesty, fruit with clean minerally crunch in Tesco Finest Vin de Pays de Gascogne (£7.99). This is made from the usual Gros Manseng with a 15 per cent splash of Sauvignon Blanc which lifts aromas and pineapple-edged fruit. It makes a terrific welcome wine and aperitif and it can also accompany griddled fish – although my attempts to barbecue fish usually break up and fall into the flames. Another candidate for the aperitif slot includes The Ned Waihopai River Sauvignon Blanc 2012 from Marlborough New Zealand, (down to just £6.99 at Majestic on multibuy), which I know I have mentioned recently but the flavour-for-money equation with this wine is just so outstanding you have to try it if you haven’t done so already.
To accompany the food, look at the balance of flavours in the sauces and marinades as well as salsas and salads. Honey is a key ingredient in many marinades and if the spice is not too lively in the mix, head for the soft, apricot and citrusy flavours of a Viognier such as Luis Felipe Edwards Signature Series Viognier Reserva 2012 from the Rapel Valley, Chile (down to £6.39 on multibuy from Majestic).
Chardonnay is another candidate for sunshine drinking alongside a plate of barbecued food, but for heaven’s sake don’t use the C word in company – people react in the most extraordinary way, shaking their heads and declaring that they never drink the stuff. But if you just pour a well-made, unwooded, or just slightly wooded chardonnay, they will love it. Try the crisp, melon fruit of Champteloup Chardonnay 2012, Val de Loire, France (£7.99, Waitrose) which sees no oak at all or the rounder, more elegant flavours of Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference Wild Ferment Chardonnay 2011 from Australia which spends just a few months in oak to round out the texture, although it really doesn’t show on the palate.
I also like the way Australian Semillon already has the smoke and honey notes which makes it perfect to accompany sweet-edged sauces. Try Tesco Finest Denman Vineyard Semillon 2012 (£9.99) which is made by Peter Hall at the Australian McGuigan winery I visited earlier this year with Yorkshire Post Quiz winner Hilary Coutts.
As soon as spice gets into the mix then bigger flavours are called for, but it doesn’t have to be red. Rosé wines combine a light touch of fruit with refreshing tastes that can easily cope with a lightly-spiced chicken and courgette kebab. The shelves are full of bright, juicy, raspberry scented rosé wines and I think it would be hard to beat Tesco’s Simply Garnacha Rosé at a bargain £4.79. It avoids the usual sugary sweetness of most cheap rosés and instead delivers cherry fruit and spice, with a clean dry finish. Chill this down and serve in large glasses, to show off the pretty colour.
Also good is a 100 per cent Merlot Rose 2012 Vin de France at Asda at a bargain £3.50. This must clip costs at every point in its production yet it still musters bright, simple easy fruit.
Spend £7.25 at Asda on Pelayo Rose 2012 from Navarra in Spain and the flavours are bold, full of raspberry fruit and food friendly.
The classic wine for any barbecue is red and full bodied, but you need to choose with care to avoid big overblown flavours that could just look unbalanced in sunshine.
Argentina is the home of the asado, a barbecue that is bigger and better than anything you have ever seen before, with sides of pork sizzling gently next to enormous steaks and strings of sausages. My home barbecue is somewhat smaller, but I can still conjure up the atmosphere of an asado by choosing a wine from one of Argentina’s best winemakers – Hervé Joyaux Fabre. He has created the Vinalba brand which is scattered across the wine shelves of various retailers, each one with a slightly different blend, and to be honest there isn’t a bad wine among them. I favour the Malbec Syrah 2011 (£9, Asda) for its dark, complex flavours of blackcurrant and damsons with notes of chocolate and cherries. This can stand up to anything that comes off a barbecue but is soft enough to slurp on its own.
For simple burgers, with or without cheese, head to Tesco for their Finest Kulapelli Cabernet Sauvignon Carmenère 2012 from Chile down from £8.99 to £6.99 but only until tomorrow, so it might be worth a special trip. Deep in colour and full of dark, damson fruit it has a lively peppery edge which keeps the taste fresh, even in sunshine. As the spice level in the food increases, cut down on tannin, which can react badly against spice, and instead go for the rounded, soft fruit of Paul Mas Merlot 2012 (£6.49, Majestic on multibuy).
When serving wines at a barbecue, always try to keep the wine cooler than the food. Fill a large bucket with ice and water to keep the whites and rosés chilled, and don’t over fill glasses. The wine can quickly go flabby when it warms up. For reds, a little chill won’t do any of them any harm on a hot day, or just keep in the shade until they are needed.