As outside temperatures rise (yes, summer is finally here), Cleveland foodies head for the backyard, fire up their grills and pour refreshing “grill-friendly” wines. So just what makes a wine barbecue-friendly?
First, backyard sommeliers should consider the art of grilling itself. Quick contact with direct flame intensifies flavors and caramelizes the sugars in grilled foods. Plus, today’s at-home chefs have moved beyond burgers and dogs and are grilling almost anything from pizza to whole fish to fruit desserts.
While red wines are preferred for heavier grilled or smoked meats, grill-friendly whites are a great break from the summer heat, offering a moderate body and texture that enhances the food on the grill including hard-to-pair veggies.
Perfectly chilled (remove from the fridge about 20 minutes before pouring), the wine should be moderate to light in body with moderate alcohol and enough acidity to refresh the palate.
Take Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand, for example. With its lemonlike acidity, the wine can be served with any dish you would squeeze fresh lemon on, such as grilled seafood, light fish or grilled asparagus.
Oakier, fuller-bodied examples such as Chardonnay would make a better partner for grilled chicken, smoked pork tenderloin, corn on the cob and savory portobello mushrooms.
Since most Mediterranean dishes are designed for the wines of the region, take advantage of seasonal ingredients and experiment a little. Open an unfamiliar white from Greece (Moschofilero) or Italy (Vernaccia) and pair it with grilled veggies, lamb, chicken or regional cheeses.
When it comes to dessert, nothing tops the concentrated flavors of freshly grilled pineapple or peaches. The sugary fruit calls for a wine with additional sweetness, so think German Riesling or Moscato d’Asti bubbles from Italy. The flavor pairing is a terrific way to end a summer day.
Let’s face it, summer is a great time to try out new flavors on the grill and in the glass. So grab one of the many grill books on the market, invite a few wine-toting friends over and join the party of patio-dwellers across the city.
Marianne Frantz, CWE and founder of the Cleveland Wine School, was joined by the Cleveland NEOenophiles in selecting and sampling wines for this month’s Cellar Notes.
2006 Skouras Moschofilero Peloponnese Greece ($16): Medium body with pungent orange, pear and floral aromas. Zesty acidity and moderate alcohol give a clean, refreshing finish. Try with grilled chicken, feta and olive tapenade.
2006 Matua Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand ($13): Medium body with crisp acidity and fresh aromas of grapefruit, Granny Smith apple and fresh lemon zest. A great patio wine that is ultra-refreshing and matches grilled anything.
2006 Brancott Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand ($10): Medium-light body with mouthwatering acidity, grapefruit, lemon zest and plenty of fruit aromas. Pair it up with grilled grouper, citrus chicken breasts or a fresh goat-cheese salad.
2005 Tamás Estates Pinot Grigio, Monterey, California ($11): Pale yellow with pronounced mineral, citrus and herbal aromas. Light in body with moderate alcohol and crisp acidity, the wine is a great patio quaffer or first-course sipper.
2005 Mönchhof Ürzig Würzgarten Riesling Spätlese, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, Germany ($28): Medium sweet, medium-plus body with mineral, orange blossom and lemon aromas and crisp acidity. A perfect mate for grilled peaches or pineapple desserts.
2003 Peju Province Chardonnay, Napa Valley, California ($27): Creamy texture and full body with broad apple fruit, oak and buttery aromas. Medium acidity and warm alcohol make a great match with grilled herb chicken or pork tenderloin.