In my experience, the go-to wines for the BBQ season are heavy Shiraz and oaky Chardonnays — I suppose the thinking is that only big wines like these have the chops to stand up to the ketchup and honey mustard that erupt upon most grilled meats.
In fact, these wines are entirely unsuited to hot weather; their high alcohol gives the wine too much burn, and the lack of acidity means that they are as refreshing as a cup of melted brie. Lighter, lither grapes will provide a much greater complement to your food. Here are the Short Cellar’s recent picks for backyard cuisine:
Viticcio 2007 Chianti Classico Riserva ($32.95, Vintages #599308)
Chianti is usually associated with Italian classics like pasta or mushroom risotto. However, a tart and lithe red wine like this is also brings out the best flavours in spicy grilled meats, like hot sausages or BBQ ribs. This is a particularly intense Chianti with a plush, sultry bouquet and a palate crackling with a lively cherry notes. The tea-flavoured tannins are powerful, so 2-5 years will help it unwind into something even more complex and compelling. 91/100
Lazzeretti 2003 Brunello di Montalcino ($36.95, Vintages #212456)
Every year I have a reunion with my two favourite high school teachers; we all seek to outdo each other with interesting bottles of wine opened over some thick steaks. The 2003 Lazzeretti is my entry for this summer. This mature and extravagant Brunello will not be to everyone’s tastes, but for those who enjoy well-made but idiosyncratic wines, it is a pure delight. The nose is extremely earthy, with notes of mushroom, barnyard and sweat. The structure is impeccable and the palate is veined with subtle nuances of tar, flowers and musk, all flavours which will scintillate in the company of rare beef. 91/100
Solar Das Bouças 2010 Vinho Verde
($13.95, Vintages #221036) [Ed. Note: No longer available at LCBO]
Vinho Verde is a style of Portuguese white wine made for easing the passage of a hot summer. The Solar Das Bouças is an especially interesting example of this wine because it consists of 100% Loureiro, a grape whose aroma resembles bay leaves (the name Loureiro means “laurel” or “bay”). True to form, the nose is verdant, with the scent of sage and fresh grass. The palate is soft and approachable, although a tangy citrus zing asserts itself on the finish. There’s a hint of metallic spritz to the bottle which is common for Vinho Verde, making it especially refreshing. A lovely match for grilled shrimp or white fish. 87/100
Salterio 2010 Albarino
($17.95, Vintages #2774) [Ed. Note: No longer available at LCBO]
Notes of white peach and hard pear give this white wine a tart structure that will pair well with all sorts of summer cuisine, from grilled sardines to chicken salad sandwiches. Blossoms, mint and citrus zest give it a sense of complexity, lingering into a lengthy finish. A mouth-watering summer sipper. 88/100
Matthew Sullivan is a civil litigator in Toronto. He blogs once a month here on lawandstyle.ca. The Short Cellar column also appears in the print edition of Precedent. Matthew can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow along on Twitter: @shortcellar.
Photo by Taz