|Grape for the Grill|
|Written by Bill Citara, BT Contributor|
Red, white, and you: Agreeable wine for $12 or less
July is a marker of many things: a month deeper into hurricane season, the full force of rainy season, the disappearance of the few remaining snowbirds, the flocking of mainlanders to the Keys. And -- oh, yeah -- the birthday of our country.
It’s that last that really defines the month. Beyond an excuse for politicians to bloviate and the rest of us to drink excessive quanities of chilled adult beverages and set off explosions that frighten pets and small children for miles around, the Fourth of July is renowned for the Ritual Charring of the Flesh, otherwise known as the backyard barbecue.
Desiccated animal ribs, burnt chicken sushi, dust-dry carbon burgers, and incinerated seafood bits are just a few of the delicacies resulting from this annual orgy of testosterone, fire, and an utter inability to comprehend the basics of grill cooking. Also a dramatic increase in the sales of burn ointment and industrial-strength antacids.
Beer is typically the beverage of choice here, mainly because even the most tasteless, character-free domestic swill has a certain undeniable charm when consumed over a flaming grill in the blast furnace that is summer in South Florida. This being Vino, however, we spit in your warm foamy brew (just kidding), and instead offer several wines of varying color, grape, and intensity that will take the sting out of giving up on this barbecue business and ordering take-out.
The essential elements of this barbecue business -- smoke, sauce, char -- tend to overwhelm the subtleties of most white wines, so a fruit-forward white with more heft is called for. Say, the 2014 Apothic White. A blend of Chardonnay, Riesling, and Pinot Grigio, subtlety is not its thing, but it does have the stones to take on everything from seafood to chicken. It’s a bit floral, a bit peachy, heavy on the ripe fruit, with a modicum of citrus acidity -- just the ticket for those who don’t like their wines too dry.
By far the most versatile barbecue wines are rosés. The 2015 Anakena Syrah Rosé is another fruit-forward wine, though this time the fruit are fresh ripe strawberries and raspberries. It’s a little funky when first opened -- honest to goddess, with faint aromas of cooked meat. But that blows off and the fruit comes forward dry and crisp, ending with a tart, lemony finish.
Perhaps a more interesting choice is sparkling rosé. There’s something about pairing barbecue and bubbly that just makes me smile. It’s not easy to find worthy sparkling wines at our price point, but a pair of French offerings slip in under our $12 limit with dollars (yes, dollars!) to spare.
The non-vintage (NV) NV Veuve du Vernay Brut Rosé drinks a whole lot better than its $9.99 price tag. A pale golden-rose color, it shows off tangy raspberry-strawberry fruit with hints of yeast and caramel, bucked up by a soft Meyer lemon acidity. The NV Brut Rosé from François Montand is even more delicate, barely pink, with clean, light berry flavors and even a touch of hibiscus. Fresh and refreshing with pinpoint bubbles, it’s also a steal of a deal.
Now we come to the heavy hitters. The 2014 Grayson Cellars Zinfandel, for example. It’s redolent of concentrated black cherry-berry fruit, hints of olives, anise, black pepper, and toasty oak. It’s a big sucker, but pretty well balanced, more so than most moderately priced Zins.
Bigger still is the 2015 Vistamar Brisa Carmenère. The grape’s characteristic earthy, chocolatey, leathery aromas and flavors are on full display here. Lots of black cherry-blueberry fruit with a touch of sprightly peppermint in a full-bodied, mouth-filling package.
And if that’s not enough, if you’re the kind of guy (or gal) who takes a top-fuel dragster to the grocery store for a quart of milk, there’s the 2014 Insurrection. An Aussie marriage of Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon that clocks in at a daunting 15 percent alcohol, it’s a wine dense enough to cut with a knife. Think sweet, rich black ’n’ blueberry fruit spiced with cloves and anise, culminating in an almost syrupy black-cherry finish, a wine that can take the edge off even the most egregious excesses of the Ritual Charring of the Flesh.
Volume 15, Issue 1, March 2017
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