Published On: Fri, Apr 13th, 2018

Toast to barbecue tastes of summer with these five wines

Nothing says summer is around the corner like making those first grill marks on the barbecue. Searing not only infuses foods with caramelized, smoky goodness; it evokes warm, wonderful memories. Pair that grilled fare with the right glass of wine and you’re making magic. Here are five of my current favourite undervalued bottles paired with hot-off-the-barbie steak, ribs, chicken, vegetables or salmon.

Wine recommendations

Steak

2016 Honoro Vera Garnacha, Bodegas Ateca, Calatayud, Spain (LCBO 440867 $ 13.50 in stores and online)

This wine’s sheer blueberry-cherry flavour threaded with delicate notes of freshly turned soil, crushed mixed peppercorn, dried herbs and charcoal is a fabulous match for grilled steak. Not only does it offer the right mix of earthy-spicy notes to season the palate, its fruit tastes sheer and elegant — letting the steak’s delicious flavour shine through. What’s more, it’s inexpensive and undervalued — leaving you money for a good cut of beef without compromising on taste. Just prime.

Score: 91

Ribs

2017 Gnarly Head Old Vine Zinfandel, California (Vintages Essential 678698 $ 17.95 in stores and online)

The full-on flavour of barbecued ribs — whether spice-rubbed or sticky-sauced — calls for red Zinfandel with its hallmark richness and black-peppery goodness. And this bottle is one of the most reliable and undervalued Zins on shelves now. With its muscular but articulate flavours of macerated blackberries and black cherries edged with black pepper, warm earth, toasted tobacco, clove, allspice, smoke and oak, it is just what you need with those finger-licking-good ribs.

Score: 93

Chicken

Barefoot Pinot Grigio, California (LCBO 53983 $ 10.95 in stores and online, also available at select grocery stores)

Grilled chicken is all about the marinade, rub or sauce. So you need a wine with versatility; one that complements everything from herbs and spices to sweet and sour glazes. This great-value bottle does the trick with its soft aromas of tangerine that lead to a lick of mixed citrus layered with yellow plum and a hint of slate. Love the sleek texture, impeccable balance and sure-footed restraint — all with a very subtle kiss of sweetness. It sings with all sorts of recipes, but I particularly like it with grilled Thai-chicken skewers with spicy peanut sauce. Smart value.

Score: 89+

Vegetables

2016 Beringer Founders’ Estate Chardonnay, California (LCBO 534230 $ 17.95 in stores and online, also available at Sobeys grocery stores)

Grilled vegetables call for a full-bodied, wooded white wine to complement the caramelized flavours of the food — and this bottle is a beauty. Expect light, pretty scents of lemon zest and poached pear and a surging entry of full-throttle fruit that unfurls with flavours of juicy pear and bright green apple edged gently with notes of oak. The eruption of flavour tastes energetic and sunlit, driving through to a strong finish. This sumptuous wine with a sense of cohesion and purpose could sell for more, and it’s perfect match for grilled veggies.

Score: 90

Salmon

NV Blu Giovello Prosecco, Italy (LCBO 85316 $ 13.95 until April 29,reg. $ 14.95 in stores and online, also available at select grocery stores)

Grilled salmon and a glass of good Prosecco is a fabulous match. Not only does the wine’s crisp effervescence lift the oily texture of the fish, but the Prosecco’s pear-scented character complements the smoky fish flavour marvelously. I particularly like very well-priced Blu Giovello with grilled salmon for its touch of bitter orange and white grapefruit and gently saline finish. And the wine’s faint touch of sweetness offsets any sugar-based marinades or glazes you might use to prepare the salmon beforehand. I just love it. In short, this is a brilliant bottle to keep in the door of the fridge.

Score: 90+

Carolyn Evans Hammond is a Toronto-based wine writer. She is also a London-trained sommelier and two-time bestselling wine book author. Reach her at carolyn@carolynevanshammond.com.

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Toast to barbecue tastes of summer with these five wines