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Every week, Mark Oldman — wine expert, acclaimed author and lead judge of the hit series The Winemakers — shares with readers the basics of wine, while making it fun and practical. In the coming weeks, he’ll tell you what to ask at a wine store, at what temperature to serve it and share his must-have wine tools.
The aromatherapy of summer is the sweet perfume of a fired-up grill, accompanied by wine that complements whatever happens to be sizzling and smoking above the coals.
If burgers or steaks are your ‘cue of choice, you’ll never go wrong with a rich, fruit-forward red, preferably one with hints of smoke to match the food’s flavor and a tinge of oaky sweetness to flatter the meat’s marinade. Zinfandel, Petite Sirah and simple versions of Cabernet Sauvignon get the job done with aplomb, often with a slightly dry sensation that pairs so well with the protein and fats of red meat. If the weather is as sweltering as your grill, don’t hesitate to make these reds more refreshing by giving them 10 or so minutes of refrigerator time.
When the fare is lighter — chicken, hot dogs, pork loin, vegetables and the like — a dry rosé is as comfortable around a grill as a grinning George Foreman. Not only is pink wine chillable and medium-weight, but the wine-inclined are increasingly discovering that a good rosé need not be the vinous equivalent of pink flamingo (i.e., sweet and goofy). Tavel or Bandol from France, rosato from Italy and rosé from the United States are just a few of styles worth your while.
A third option, one vastly underutilized by the thirsty griller, is Champagne or sparkling wine. While most people unfortunately save it for birthdays and ball drops, a sparkler’s abundant acidity, cleansing bubbles and inherent festivity add lift to almost anything you’d grill on a hibachi. In fact, the very combination of bubbles and barbecue forms the basis for what is always one of the most popular events at the South Beach Wine & Food Festival, “Bubble Q,” and it is also happens to be subject of the seminar I’m participating in at the New York Wine & Food Festival this fall. Prosecco from Italy, cava from Spain, American sparkling wine, and simple renditions of Champagne are only a cork pop away from offering you barbecue bliss.