There are all kinds of ways to go with wine when it comes to grilling, and some of the most interesting possibilities may fall outside conventional thinking. When I grill for a group I like to have several wines open — a full-flavored white, a fruity red and, at this time of year, a delicious rosé.
As a starting point, think of lighter-colored grilled foods — fish, chicken and pork — with white wines. With darker meats (and even darker fish), think of various reds. Now, remember that rules are made to be broken, and wine rules are no exception. If I were grilling barbecue pork ribs, let’s say, I’d want a hearty red like a California zinfandel.
Another good example of this came over the Memorial Day weekend, when friends invited us to a cookout. I started with a glass of white and liked its refreshing acidity, citrus notes and touch of vanilla. It happened to be the 2007 Bordeaux Blanc from Chateau Lamoth de Haux, a blend of sauvignon blanc, semillon and muscadelle.
It was nice to see a Bordeaux served at an informal party, even if most guests were oblivious to the specifics of the wine, since Bordeaux, for everyday drinking at least, has been somewhat overshadowed in recent years by other regions of France.
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I ended up sticking with the white Lamoth de Haux as the food came out. And here was the great thing about it: This white wine, which I found listed on the Web at anywhere from $10 to $15, matched well with just about everything, from grilled hot dogs and hamburgers to cold cuts and salads (but hold the potato salad, please).
For me, the lesson is that, when grilling informally, it’s often just fine to stick with a wine you like. For serious grilled meats like steak and lamb, however, it’s a different matter. A substantial red with some oak and a good tannic structure will complement the flavors and cut through the fat content of the meat.
So, as a London broil was on the grill at our house the other night, we began a blind tasting of some inexpensive new red releases from the Calina Winery in Chile’s Maule Valley. Two of them stood out. The most interesting was Calina’s 2006 “Alcance” Cabernet Sauvignon. At $15 or less, this wine is a great value, showing a nice structure and acidity and pleasing notes of plum, blackberry, mocha and a touch of vanilla.
Not far behind was Calina’s 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon “Reserva,” a blend of grapes from several areas. A bit softer, it has deep blackberry fruit and a nice hint of baking spices and is a real bargain at a suggested just $9 (I saw it listed for as low as $6 or so on the Web).
When it comes to grilled chicken, this summer try a rosé, which can provide the refreshing qualities of whites with the deeper fruit flavors of reds, from which rosés are made. From Beaujolais in France, I enjoyed Jean-Paul Brun’s delicious 2007 Beaujolais Rosé d’ Folie, which is made from the gamay grape and is full of cherry fruit and spice.
Muscadet, a white wine from the westernmost part of France’s Loire Valley near the Atlantic Ocean, is not a wine that I would typically associate with grilled foods. But I found an excellent pairing with tuna steaks coated in sesame oil and toasted sesame seeds.
Technically, I didn’t actually grill the tuna. Rather, I put a cast-iron skillet on the grill to get it very hot, coated the surface with some canola oil and then quickly seared the tuna. A crisp, mineral-driven muscadet called Amphibolite Nature (2007) from Domaine de la Louvetrie was an excellent match. Light yet expressive with melon and citrus notes, this $14 organic wine made from the melon de Bourgogne grape washed down the tuna wonderfully and, somewhat surprisingly, held its own against all that sesame stuff.
It was yet another unexpected twist on wines that, come to think of it, make perfect sense for grilling.
Edward Deitch is the recipient of the 2007 James Beard Foundation Journalism Award for Best Multimedia Writing. He welcomes comments from readers. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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