As a general rule, substantial red wines and hot weather do not mix well and should be avoided.
BBQ’s do challenge that wisdom though.
Charred or smoke influenced food with spicy sauces will almost certainly overpower all but the heartiest of wine.
Consequently and to coincide with slightly cooler weather, here are ideas for wines that I think do work with barbecued meat.
They are equally valid as companions for beef dishes being eaten inside or outside.
My selections cover a range of prices so what you buy can be adjusted to suit the seriousness of the specific occasion.
I hope they impress sufficiently to “light your fire”.
As is normal here, pictures and hyperlinks are provided where possible to guide you straight to the right wine on shelf or web page.
Starting in Italy
2019 M&S Classics No.23 Chianti Riserva (£9 at Ocado and 13%):
Although Italy has a host of robust wines, most folk would put Tuscany’s sangiovese-based signature wine in their First Division.
This version is part of the M&S Classic range sold (at £8.50 in this case) in their stores and through the company’s link with Ocado
Underlining its suitability for BBQs, there is an appropriate smokiness to this wine – which also displays smooth blackcurrant, cherry and plum flavours with rounded, but subsiding, tannin.
Thyme, cinnamon, paprika and brazil nut elements complete the picture as does its nicely balanced acidity.
Thence to Spain
2021 Matsu El Picaro (£10 at Morrisons and 14.5% abv):
Although tempranillo is often associated with lamb dishes, its easy relationship with spicy chorizo (and, hence, barbecue sauces) secures it a place – two actually – on this list.
This example is from the low intervention, biodynamic enthusiastic Bodega Matsu winery and using fruit from older vines.
Textured and with real depth, it delivers intense black cherry and bramble flavours given verve by lively acidity.
Its firm tannin will help with hearty meat as will the cocktail of supplementary flavours that include clove, mint, tomato and espresso.
Heading much further west
2020 Cabernario No.8 Cabernet Sauvignon (£12.99 at Waitrose and 14%):
On the other side of the Atlantic, we encounter the product of another set of older vines – this time in Chile’s Maipo Valley.
And the affinity between cabernet sauvignon and beef needs little additional comment from me as anyone trying its partnership with this wine will quickly see.
Dense with fruity aromas, it has herbal elderberry and damson flavours and – again – sufficient smoky and cedar components to work with barbecued foods.
Other support comes in the form of good acidity and suggestions of mint, cocoa and cinnamon, but only modest tannin.
Back to Europe
2021 Kopke Sao Luiz Tinto Organic (£17.99 at Cambridge Wine Merchants and 14%):
Any search for presentable, full wines will inevitably reach Portugal at some point and this example from a reliable port producer in the Douro Valley helps explain why.
Here we find a blend of the usual suspects (touriga nacional, tinta roriz,and touriga franca) that work so well in the port industry
Dark in colour but mouth filling, it brings us concentrated damson and mulberry flavours with modest tannin sitting behind them.
All this is partnered by sharp acidity and a symphony of menthol, aniseed, liquorice and dark chocolate elements.
Staying in Iberia
2014 Barón de Barbón Rioja Gran Reserva (from £17.99 at Laithwaite and 14%):
Aged Rioja also has a part to play in any review of wines for beef or for other hearty fare.
Much of that suitability is owed to the fullness, structure and complexity developed through the lengthy maturation process the gran reserva classification demands.
This example starts with oaky, typical Rioja aromas before the smooth plum, cherry and roast vegetable flavours seize control.
Subsidiary constituents include cedar, leather and clove influences coupled with good acidity and firm tannin.
Finally, our most distant contributor.
2019 Left Field Malbec (£18.50 at Wine Direct and 13.5%):
Even medium bodied malbec can pair well with steak given its ripe flavours especially where firmer tannins might prove too intrusive.
This one is from the prime red wine producing region of New Zealand’s Hawkes Bay, home to the celebrated Gimblett Gravels.
Dark in colour with an unmistakable sense of purity, this features balanced blueberry, raspberry and prune flavours and sharp acidity.
These are accompanied by traces of sage, chocolate, tar and mocha.
Most of today's suppliers will be familar but here are links to the About Us pages for two that may be less well known.
First, then, comes Cambridge Wine Merchants who stock that Portuguese offering.
And, to follow that, are the details for Wine Direct – who sell that Malbec.
Call in again on Monday when the spotlight falls on Top Tips that offer especially good value at a store near you.
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