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With only a few weeks of barbecue season remaining, here are our team's tips for the best bottles to pair with the delights coming off your grill before it's time to box it up for Autumn.
Smoky, succulent and completely unique in its ability to define a mood and a moment, barbecue as a cooking technique is focused on highlighting and enhancing individual ingredients, rather than creating a complex layering of flavours over long periods of time, as you would with slow cooking. Barbecuing is about cooking quickly, it epitomises the phrase ‘colour is flavour’, and it’s usually focused on feeding the five thousand.
We take a similar approach to pairing wines with charcoaled foods as we do with cooking them, opting for wines that are clear and fresh, perhaps with a smoky or saline edge that are going to highlight notes in the food, rather than big bodied, bold wines with hours' worth of complexity.
When it comes to choosing a bottle for your barbecue table, it’s best to avoid anything too full-bodied or overly complex. The food you’ve been sweating over needs to be allowed to sing alongside a well-placed accompaniment, without being overpowered by it.
It’s best to avoid wines that offer particularly hefty tannins as, without anything particularly rich from the food to balance or soften them, you’ll be hit with some serious astringency from your wine of choice. While we hope sunnier weather might steer you away from the full-bodied reds anyway, we thought we’d reiterate it for those stuck in their ways.
At the same time, anything that's too light and delicate will easily be overwhelmed by and lost to the juicy, concentrated foods coming off the grill.
Light to medium bodied, fruity reds from cooler climates work really well with anything cooked over the coals – think Pinot Noir, Negroamaro, or maybe a Beaujolais from the Gamay grape. The best way to celebrate the smoky, savoury notes of barbecued food is to opt for a wine with smooth textures and a savoury edge - by that we mean notes of earth, smoke or herbs.
Barbecue season tends to fall simultaneous to rosé season (although the latter seems to have few limitations for when it might kick off and end...) so this is where a key tip from the Sociovino team comes in full force: colour is flavour! While pale rosé quenches summer thirst like few other drinks, when it comes to pairing wines with your evening barbecue, darker rosés are a cracking option, the extra colour often signifying some firmer fruit flavours and fuller bodies which are needed to stand up to the smoky barbecue flavours. Save the paler bottles for the beach, then brighten up your dining table with bolder colours and bigger flavours - and don't forget, more colour on a rosé doesn't necessarily mean more sweetness!
Lagar de Costa's Rosado - colour is flavour!
Here are our recommendations for bottles particularly suited to your upcoming barbecues, whether you’re hosting for the Bank Holiday, or just looking for something to mix up your mid-week al-fresco dinners, come rain or shine. We like to think of these as 'all-weather wines', so they're perfect for the British Summer (or Not-So-Summer).
Few bottles better embody the tips we've offered above for barbecue-ready wines than this 100% Negroamaro wine from organic winery, Caiaffa, situated in the Northern, cooler end of Puglia. The way we want you to imagine this wine is by considering a baked berry tart that's been ever so lightly smoked. A strange dessert to imagine, we know, but one we're sure some of London's best pastry chefs have dreamed up, if not served up. We'll leave you to hunt down the pud, but we can certainly serve it up in bottle via this Caiaffa wine, one that's oozing with juicy berry fruit, underpinned by a notable smoky edge. It's silky, moreish, and provides incredibly easy drinking thanks to notes of wild strawberry, juicy redcurrants, a smokiness comparable to the whiff of a struck match and a mouth-watering acidity. It's the perfect pairing for charcoaled red meats.
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We think the best barbecues are all about context, and few settings are better suited to a grill session than the beach. Whether you're fortunate enough to be enjoying this wine by the coast or not, it's a bottle that, thanks to its vineyards' origins, is truly kissed by the sea so you can bring the beach to your back garden as you barbecue. The Lagar de Costa winery's proximity to the Atlantic ensures its selection of wines' enticingly salty edge, while the Espadeiro grape, a red grape unique to North-West Spain's Galicia region, contributes ample cranberries and raspberries to this drop.
As a result, you have a dry, thirst-quenching rosé that provides perfect evidence for the philosophy of 'colour is flavour'. Imagine this bottle playing the role of a generous sprinkling of both pomegranate seeds and flaky sea salt over griddled vegetables and Middle Eastern salads. If you're into barbecued fish, this is also a great option, embodying the theory of 'what grows together goes together' - Spain's Galicia region is a stunning spot for meaty white fish, delicious when grilled simply to highlight its inherent flavours.
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One for the more ambitious barbecuers among us, a wine that's coastal to its core, offering the perfect pairing to grilled prawns or, most deliciously, octopus. Harking from the 'green coast' of Italy's Marche region, it's as salty as you'd expect, offering up refreshing notes of lemon zest and lime alongside a floral character that's kept savoury and concise by a steely, mineral backbone.
Produced from hand-harvested, organically-grown Verdicchio grapes, this is a wine that really sings of its homeland - a homeland that's hard to beat when it comes to fresh, flavourful seafood.
Another thirst-quencher, this Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi is perfect for those warmer summer days (or perfect for summoning the feeling of them even when the sun doesn't want to play ball). We'd recommend mixing up your grilling repertoire and tucking into a bottle that offers huge value.
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Last but not least, the perfect pair for grilled chicken, or a salty-sweet pork chop, this drop loves foods bursting with dried herbs and a little smoke. We've described this as a 'tightly packed gift of mineral purity' and a gift it most certainly is, harking from the Campania region which is known for its premium white wines. Brimming with elegant stone fruits like peach and apricot, it's ripe and fruit-driven, which means there is a lot going on from its fruit to its edge of bitter almond and irresistible savoury notes of sage.
Its Greco grapes are grown at altitude, ensuring they don't need to be harvested until October - that means a long ripening season on the vine which secures some serious flavour, alongside a sustained and soaring acidity.
The Lapilli family have been growing grapes on their small estate in Campania since the 1960s, and the quality of their wines just keeps on coming.
The perfect pairing for some lightly spiced grilled chicken or a slightly sweeter pork chop, loaded with dried herbs and a little griddle smoke. Delicious.
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