Do you ever feel like July might as well be renamed "barbecue month"? Even though this ancient cooking method hails from the Caribbean, we Americans have utterly claimed the summertime ritual for our own. Like with so many traditions though, they can get a bit - um -- old if you don't switch things up now and then.
For years the pros have been persuading us to pair the bold flavors of typical barbecue with equally big, bossy wines. But it's time to switch things up. Instead of seeking out wines that compete with what's on the grill to see which one's more badass, dare to choose the road less traveled and plan to pour these four uniquely contrasting wines instead.
Cantine Torresella Prosecco NV ($16): There's been a whole lotta talk about Italian sparklers lately. Ever since they finally earned their very own DOC classifying prosecco for being as uniquely specialized to Italy's Veneto region as Champagne is to its namesake plot of land in France, peeps are positively clamoring to taste what all the fuss is about. Do some major guzzling of this delicious gem alongside a finger-lickin' hors d'oeuvre of prosciutto-wrapped shrimp that's been brushed with a little bit of melted-down peach jam. This flirtatiously refreshing wine will make that peachy-shrimpy-porky combo seem like a symphony in your mouth.
The Infinite Monkey Theorem Riesling 2009 ($17): Some of you might think my cheese has slid completely off its cracker for recommending riesling as a go-to barbecue wine, but that skepticism will likely subside after sipping this wine served alongside the bratwurst. Not just any bratwurst, mind you. The sausage of choice is the house-made, Niman Ranch pork shoulder-filled bratwurst sold at Marczyk Fine Foods. Generations of Alsatians and German winemakers have been in love with the combination of flame-grilled, savory-sweet sausages and slightly sweet, crisp rieslings; when it clearly ain't broke, don't bother fixing it. If your childhood is filled with happy memories of mom's pork chops and applesauce, you'll be thrilled to discover how much this pairing tastes just like that, only much, much better.
Gazela Rosé of Vinho Verde ($8): It's no secret: I adore rosé, but whenever I'm in the mood to cheat on my [wine] lover, it's always with vinho verde. It's fruity, a little frizzante and freakishly good. Although so delectable you'll be tempted to drink this ripe strawberry and watermelon flavor-infused wine straight from the bottle, keep some to savor with a batch of heavenly ancho chile and cherry-glazed barbecued chicken wings. Did you notice that this wine costs $8? Done and done.
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Vinos de Terruños "Siete 7" Navarra 2008 ($13): For most people, standard barbecue and wine pairings usually involve über-jammy, spicy, and oaky wines meant to stand up to a man-sized hunk of beef or pork that's been liberally slathered with a cloyingly sweet sauce. It's a new decade, so why not take a minimalists approach to your 'cue and leave off the sauce altogether? Soak some wood chips (flavored or not, your call) and place them in a foil pan underneath your grill rack and let the smoke do the talkin'. Proffer a wine that's equal to this subtle-y flavored affair like this nuanced blend of garnacha and tempranillo from the Navarra region of Spain. I loved this wine at first sight; the elegant, restrained palate of soft blackberry mixed with warm clove and fennel undertones had me jonesing for a spice-encrusted strip steak, cooked to a textbook medium-rare. Get ready to watch all of your shiraz-swilling friends at next week's backyard fête get real jealous.