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Grilling at summer weekend (Alexander Shalamov/Getty Images/iStockphoto)
Grilling at summer weekend (Alexander Shalamov/Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Beppi Crosariol

What are the best wines for barbecue? Add to ...

Anthony Collet, the head of marketing for Inter Beaujolais, a trade group representing Beaujolais producers, asked me a timely question on a recent visit to Toronto: “What wines do Canadians drink with barbecue?”

There are lots of options, I told him, not least because barbecue isn’t a food item but a process and in this country it can involve all types of fare, from beef and fish to eggplant and pizza. I have no doubt charcoal-happy Canadians would grill ice cream in the summer if they could.

Collet, though, was wondering about red meat in particular, so I eventually cited Australian shiraz and Argentine malbec, two styles that frequently get the nod as quintessential grapes for the grill. Jammy and powerful, they seem to fit the bill. But even when it comes to red meat, I’m not sure they always work wonders. It depends on the animal part and the specific cooking technique.

There are two main ways to approach meat on the Weber: Sear it fast or take it low and slow. Simply grilled steaks and chops work well on high. Tougher cuts like ribs and pork shoulder need time to tenderize. You also don’t want an out-of-control blaze to scorch that sweet barbecue sauce, as I seem especially gifted to do every summer.

That is why I’m leading the reviews below with European selections. They are, for the most part, more subdued, crisp and overtly tannic, qualities that better suit juicy steaks and chops, especially when cooked no further than medium rare. (Though other cool-climate regions, such as Niagara and New Zealand, also qualify on that score.) I prefer to pair fruit-forward, jammier, warm-climate styles from the New World with slow, Southern-influenced barbecue.

Burgers? The pickles, mayo, ketchup and mustard demand a red with verve, which is why I side with Rajat Parr, the wine director of RN74 in San Francisco and co-author of Secrets of the Sommeliers. Try Beaujolais, he says.

Pipoli Aglianico del Vulture 2010 (Italy)


PRICE: $14.95

Here’s an offbeat southern Italian red that tastes as though it were infused with church incense. Fullbodied and smooth, it serves up plum preserves and a dry finish.

Available in Ontario.

Château La Grange de Bessan 2009 (France)


PRICE: $19.95

From the excellent 2009 vintage, this cabernet-led red Bordeaux shows a supple texture and great purity of fruit, leaning toward black currant and cherry, along with chocolate, lively spice and a funky barnyard note.

Available in Ontario.

Banfi Rosso di Montalcino 2010 (Italy)


PRICE: $22.95

Medium-bodied and very dry, this is earthy stuff, with a mixture of fresh plum and overripe prune typical of rosso di Montalcino’s more cellarworthy big brother classification, Brunello. Juicy and pulled in tight by tannins, it reveals a nuance of mineral.

$24.99 in B.C., $25.20 in Que., $29.79 in N.B., $31.99 in N.S.

Valle Reale Montepulciano d’Abruzzo 2008 (Italy)


PRICE: $18.95

Upmarket montepulciano from the bargain region of Abruzzo, this is full and smooth, with whispers of leather and earth on luscious, juicy, plum-like fruit.

Available in Ontario.

L’Évidence 2011 (France)


PRICE: $16.75

A Bordeaux with good structure and concentration for the money, this medium-weight red combines fruity and savoury flavours in equal measure. There’s a smooth, chewy core of berries and an outer layer of forest floor, spice and subtle toasty oak. The tame tannins provide just enough grip for a satisfyingly dry finish.

Available in Ontario.

Castillo de Almansa Reserva 2009 (Spain)


PRICE: $11.95

A blend of tempranillo, monastrell and grenache, it’s medium-fullbodied, with soft cherry fruit framed by just-right acidity and peppery spice. A bargain.

$12.99 in B.C., $13.49 in Sask., $12.99 in Man., $13.25 in Que., $14.99 in N.B., $14.95 in P.E.I.

Pirramimma Shiraz 2010 (Australia)


PRICE: $26.95

Pirramimma is the name of the estate, but it could be Australian for “crowd pleasing.” The winery turns out big, succulent reds and this shiraz tastes like plum jam bathed in cassis liqueur, with a crisp spine and peppery kick. Ribs are in order.

$29.99 in B.C.

Ravenswood Old Vine Zinfandel Lodi 2010 (California)


PRICE: $19.95

Red zin and barbecue – it’s a perfect made-in-America pairing. California’s signature jammy-spicy grape finds attractively balanced expression here. It’s full of chunky, blackberry fruit, with chocolate, tart backing and peppercorn.

$22.99 in B.C.

Chakana Estate Selection Malbec 2011 (Argentina)


PRICE: $19.95

Grapey and very ripe, with an essence of raisin, this full-bodied red balances sweet fruit and vanilla with lively spice and a note of charred oak. It’s one for sweet barbecue, for sure.

$25.75 in Que.

Columbia Crest Grand Estates Merlot 2008 (Washington)


PRICE: $15.95

The Grand Estates merlot could swing both ways – from steak to sweet ribs or pulled pork. It’s rich and spicy, with sound structure as well as succulent fruit and dark chocolate.

$19.99 in B.C., $15.88 in Man., $18.04 in Nfld.

Château de Pierreux Brouilly 2011 (France)


PRICE: $18.95

A premium Beaujolais “cru” from the village of Brouilly, this hails from an excellent vintage – 2011 – and shows plenty of stuffing. It’s still light-bodied Beaujolais, so don’t expect shiraz-style opulence. Bright, crisp and peppery, it would put a smile on a burger.

$19.99 in B.C., $20.15 in Que.

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