The weather has been so changeable of late I hardly dare whisper the word “barbecue”. But let’s remain optimistic about the chances of a fine spell. When it arrives, many of us will dash outside to light the coals and get some red meat on the grill. Then comes the question of which wine to drink with it.
Plenty of reds pair up perfectly well with barbecued steak, burgers, lamb and pork (including sausages) so it’s hard to go terribly wrong. But get it right, sticking to certain styles that suit smoky hints and charred edges, and you can make a blissful marriage between wine and grilled meat.
First, look for reds that are fairly full-bodied; wimpy ones won’t cut the mustard (literally, if you’re slapping that on, too). Now avoid those that are too mature and savoury – you need bright, youthful wines with plenty of ripe, juicy fruit. A little oak is a good thing, as it complements the smokiness of barbecued meat, but try to avoid a wine that is so oaky its fruit flavours have been swamped.
If your meat has been in a sweet marinade, or if you’re having tomato or barbecue sauces, then a touch of corresponding sweetness in the red wine is welcome. My barbecue reds tend to be a little more jammy than usual. All in all, I favour New World reds, for their exuberant, rich but rounded flavours of cassis, plum and cherry. Australia, California, South America and South Africa provide all the wines you can want, especially in the form of cabernets, zinfandels and malbecs.
Vinalta Malbec 2019, Mendoza, Argentina
(14%, Marks & Spencer, £9)
You can’t argue about Argentine malbec with steak, but this one, with its juicy blueberry and plum flavours and rounded, smooth texture, is particularly appealing with a steak that’s charred on the edges, rare in the middle.
Summer Road Old Vine Grenache 2019, Riverland, Australia
A wonderfully aromatic red; young, fresh and lively with lots of ripe strawberry fruit. There’s a slight sweetness to the mid-palate but it’s in balance and ends up pretty dry. Versatile meat-matcher, but especially delicious with grilled pork chops or premium sausages.
Definition Zinfandel 2018, Lodi, California
(14%, Majestic, £10.99 or £8.99 as part of a mixed six)
Majestic’s own-label Definition range contains some well-priced gems, and this red Zin is an ace at a meat barbie. There’s ripe blackberries at its core and hints of coffee, clove and cinnamon – it would suit smoky, herby lamb best of all.