Sizzlin’ Surprises: Exploring Overlooked Wines for your BBQ

Sizzlin’ Surprises: Exploring Overlooked Wines for your BBQ

When it comes to pairing wine with food from the grill, people tend to reach for the usual suspects: Cabernet Sauvignon or Chardonnay. However, the wine world offers a wealth of options that can elevate your BBQ experience. So, let’s explore examples of underappreciated BBQ wines, shining a spotlight on a number that complement the smoky flavors of grilled meats and spicy sauces. Here are a few hidden gems that will take your barbecue gathering to the next level.

Malbec:  Malbec originated in France, but the Argentine version is made for your BBQ due to its distinguishing red to dark fruit, moderate tannins, judicious use of oak, and medium to full body.  Particularly look for wines from the Mendoza region, especially the Uco Valley.  It is a match made in heaven for grilled steaks, lamb chops, or juicy burgers.

Zinfandel:  This is one of our personal BBQ favourites.  Look for wines from Northern California regions, like Sonoma’s Dry Creek Valley or Alexander Valley, that deliver more refined fruit flavours with less jammy character.  Zin is a versatile wine that adapts beautifully to the smoky flavors of BBQ. Its rich red and dark fruit combined with peppery spice notes are a delightful contrast to ribs with BBQ sauce, sausages, or grilled chicken.

Rosé:  We tend to overlook Rosé as BBQ wine. However, its versatility with food and refreshing qualities make it great choice. Dry rosés, with their food friendly acidity and fruit-forward character, provide a fantastic counterbalance to the richness of grilled seafood or vegetables, BBQ chicken, or even your beloved burger. Explore traditional renditions from southern France and those from our own backyard in Ontario.

Syrah/Shiraz:  Syrah, known as Shiraz in Australia, is a bold, spicy wine that holds its own against intense BBQ flavours. Its dark fruit, black pepper, and smoky nuances make it a perfect match for smoked beef brisket, spicy ribs, or grilled meats. Look for classic peppery Syrahs from the Rhône Valley or check out Australia to experience a more fruity expression of this dynamic varietal.

Chenin Blanc:  For white wine lovers, Chenin provides a great alternative to Chardonnay. This grape is vinified in range of styles, from dry to off-dry to sweet and even sparkling, allowing for diverse pairings. A dry Chenin Blanc with its crisp acidity and vibrant fruit notes complements grilled shrimp and BBQ chicken skewers, or try an off dry/sweet version with grilled peaches or pineapple. South Africa’s Stellenbosch and France’s Loire Valley are notable regions producing exceptional wines.

Our suggestion for late summer is don’t limit yourself to the usual choices for your next barbecue. There is a whole wine world out there to discover.  Cheers to exploring new wine horizons!

My ratings are based on a 5 star system developed by Michael Broadbent: 5 stars: Outstanding; 4 stars: Very good; 3 stars: Good; 2 stars: Moderately good; 1 star: Not very good, but not bad; No stars: Poor.

Rocca delle Macìe Campo Maccione Vermentino 2021
★★★½ $17.95 (Vintages)

A Tuscan white that’s dry in style, quite full bodied, unoaked, and fruited with lemons, pear, apple, and a note of mango that’s all buoyed up by an intense mineral backbone.  It would be a very good patio sipper or pair it with grilled shrimp and fresh water fish.

Casillero del Diablo Reserva Sauvignon Blanc 2021 ★★★+ $15.00 (LCBO)

If you are looking for a reasonably priced, good quality pour for your summer get together, this Chilean will fit the bill nicely.  The simple flavours of lemon, lime, and a little grapefruit peel touched with a bit of herbaceousness will make it a crowd pleaser.  Drink with salads and lighter fare or by itself.

 Boschendal 1685 Chardonnay 2021 ½  $18.95 (Vintages)

For lovers of complex, buttery, fruity, vanilla scented, full bodied Chardonnay, this will be your right up your alley.  The name pays tribute to the year that the winery was founded in South Africa.  Pasta in Alfredo Sauce or grilled Salmon would match up nicely.

Domaine Maby La Forcadière Tavel Rosé 2022  ★★★★  $23.95 (Vintages)

Rosé has a reputation of being light to medium bodied, which is why a number of people give it a pass.  Rosé from the France’s Tavel region is definitely not that style.  Tavels, including this one, are full bodied and age worthy.  It actually displays a little tannin and shows off strawberry jam, raspberry, cherry liquor, orange rind, and a modest amount of stone fruit.  A great wine that will stand up to almost anything you can think of from the grill.

Peninsula Ridge Beal Vineyard Cabernet Rosé 2022 ★★½  $16.95 (Vintages)

Ontario Cabernet Franc crafts fragrant, fruity Rosés that make agreeable summer wines. This one, made with fruit from the Beamsville Bench, reveals a lovely medium pink in the glass with the scent of candied cherry, red currant, strawberry, herbs, and a back note of lemon on the palate. Take advantage of the last asparagus of the season and pour it with Asparagus Bacon Pasta Salad or try it with Salade Nicoise.

 Prevedello Extra Dry Asolo Prosecco Superiore 2021 ★★★½  $17.95 (Vintages)

The hill region of Asolo in the Veneto region produces some of the finest Proseccos in Italy.  This one is Extra Dry, meaning it has some residual sugar, which makes it easy to enjoy.  Lemon, yellow apple, and mineral with a touch of honey makes it a splendid accompaniment to grilled squash or charcuterie, but equally enjoyable before dinner as an aperitif.

Bachelder Les Villages Gamay Noir 2020 ★★★★  $25.95 (Vintages)

Thomas Bachelder has proven his talent with Niagara Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, but he has also turned his focus to Gamay, another of Ontario’s superstar grapes. He ages it in neutral oak barrels to soften and impart just a touch of spice to the strawberry, raspberry, and candied cherry fruit.   In addition, the wine exhibits an herbal edge of rosemary. Low intervention winemaking means it may throw a bit of harmless sediment. Anticipate a red that’s dry, medium bodied and very food friendly. Pair it with everything from charcuterie to burgers to grilled pork with rosemary.

Catena Malbec 2020 ★★★★  $23.95 (Vintages)

Catena’s Malbec has earned a Vintage’s Essential designation and deservedly so.  Hailing from Mendoza, Argentina’s premier wine region, it is bottled unfiltered and unfined to preserve the full flavour profile; thus, it may throw a little sediment that is completely innocuous. It’s a smooth, full bodied effort with plum, cherry jam, dark chocolate, black pepper, leather, vanilla, and sage leaf.  If you’re BBQing steak, burgers, or Portobello mushroom caps, this is the wine you need.

Pesquié Édition 1912m Ventoux 2020★★★★  $19.95 (Vintages)

The wine’s name is an homage to the height of Mt. Ventoux, which is where the vineyards are located (although at a lower elevation of 300m). A blend of 70% Grenache and 30% Syrah with splashes of Carignan and Cinsault for good measure, the wine exhibits a typical Southern Rhone character of garrigue with plum, licorice, cooked strawberry, black cherry, and lavender.  Grilled zucchini and eggplant, ratatouille, pizza, sausages, or veggie burgers would complement this delightfully.