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Beppi Crosariol on wine

Beefy red wines for the barbie Add to ...

The grill and I have been going through a rough patch. Yes, grill (not girl).

As I prefer to frame the situation, Barbie - that's the Weber's nickname - has on two recent occasions incinerated two good steaks.

I'm sure Barbie, were she the vocal sort, would counter, not unreasonably, that I had left the meat unattended for too long, a misfortune of getting carried away in the cellar trying to settle on a perfect match for what I anticipated would be rare steak.

Suffice it to say, both cuts of meat, so moist and sanguine in raw form, looked like victim of a napalm attack. If brut is champagne jargon for bone dry, you could call these steaks extra brut.

The barbecue mishaps made me melancholy for two reasons.

Not only was the pricey protein ruined, so were the wines - or at least my thirst for them. Serve a big tannic red with arid meat and you might as well sit down to a dinner of sandpaper. All my parched throat craved was beer, which is what I ended up drinking.

Until Barbie and I get back on track, I won't be dispensing grilling tips. But here are some decent reds for that cut of elusively rare beef. They're all from today's Vintages release in Ontario.

Fine reds don't come much bigger than La Bastide Saint Vincent Pavan Vacqueyras 2007 ($21.95, product No. 177709).

Based mainly on grenache, it's a hulking monster from France's Rhône Valley, weighing in at 15-per-cent alcohol. For a wine from a distinguished appellation, it's also an impressive value. Full-bodied and concentrated with a fruity core, it's exceptionally smooth, with flavours of plum and berry and a nicely astringent backbone that would pair nicely with a juicy piece of flesh.

From a nearby district in the Rhône comes Château Mont-Redon Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2006 ($36.95, No. 959627). Not as big as the Vacqueyras, it is, nonetheless, very ripe, unctuous and earthy.

Imbued with a similarly earthy essence but from Spain is Las Rocas Garnacha 2008 ($14.95, No. 95190). Flavours of kirsch, pepper and licorice are nicely woven in this fine effort from producer San Alejandro. Big value. Rhône flavours at a Spanish price.

Monasterio de las Vinas Carinena Reserva 2006 ($12.95, No. 166579) is another great buy from Spain. Supple fruit flavours of plum and cherry caress the tongue, with an intriguing iron-earth note and pleasant hint of prune-like oxidation from five years of age.

Echoing that same prune-like note is Bodegas Lan Rioja Crianza 2005 ($15.95, No. 166538). Also from Spain, it's gutsy and rich, with a light layer of fine, mouth-coating tannins.

Voluptuous is the word for Pirramimma Petit Verdot 2005 ($24.95, No. 986752), an inky-purple crowd-pleaser from Australia. Full-bodied, rich and creamy, it's lifted by a nuance of savoury herbs and finishes dry with concentrated but fine tannins.

Shingleback Haycutters Shiraz Viognier 2007 ($18.95, No. 166132) is another fat red from Australia with more than gobs of fruit going for it. Thick and warm, it delivers a core of cherry-liqueur-like flavour rounded out with lively spice and counterbalancing acidity.

The Argentine people love their beef, and they're well served by rising quality of chunky reds to suit a meat-laden diet. One excellent example is Cameleon Reserva Privada Malbec 2008 ($13.95, No. 168807), an organic red with opulent fruit and a kick of spice.

And perhaps the best bargain of today's Vintages release, also from Argentina, is Crios de Susana Balbo Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 ($12.95, No. 640979).

Full-bodied and brimming with dark-skinned fruit, it's rounded out by spice, tobacco and a subtle tannic bitterness. Impressive complexity and balance for the money.So, if Barbie and I can't reconcile soon, at least I'll be able to enjoy the company of Susana.

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