When asked over the years which wines go best with summer fare, the term “barbecue” (by which is usually meant backyard grilling) is typically mentioned. This is no simple subject, as grilling has been done for thousands of years in virtually every country, encompassing Greek souvlaki, Turkish kebabs, Mexican barbacoa, Jamaican jerk, Brazilian churrasco, Korean bool kogi, the sate of Indonesia and so on.
But here, summer fare is synonymous with regional American barbecue. So, when thinking about summer wine and food matches, I consider first that smokiness in food will lend itself nicely to wines with oak. North Carolina’s vinegary sauces favor crisp wines with good acidity. Memphis spice wants spicy wines. The sweet, sticky ribs of Memphis need something even sweeter (what a nightmare). And finally, Texas’ tomato-based sauces—with their chili-powder kick—call for something red and robust.
Stop. Something doesn’t feel right. I think to myself, “I need a beer.” Making these fastidious wine suggestions seem counter-intuitive to what summer, grilling and barbecue are all about. This time of year is laid-back, a great time to put things into perspective. It’s hot, but at the same time, it reminds us not to sweat the small stuff. The last thing you want to worry about is whether or not the bottle of wine you picked up is going to pair perfectly with whatever your friends are cooking in their backyard. And you probably don’t want to spend a fortune, either.
Now, I am not saying you should stick to beer. And I know many of us will still drink our share of red wine this summer. But, if you open yourself up to an array of certain affordable aromatic white wines—as well as some pink ones—this time of year will get fun fast.
Promises of mango, ripe melon, peach, apricot, gardenia blossom, honeysuckle, cinnamon, cardamom and clove just scream out for backyard sipping. Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Muscat and Chenin Blanc are the aromatic wines you want. Aromatic white wines such as these are fruity, frequently off-dry and relatively low in alcohol. This makes them extremely quaffable and perfect with sweeter, riper, summertime food, as well as a great partner to the spicy cuisine that is so prevalent as the season warms up.
The real beauty of these wine varietals is their versatility. You can mix and match them with various foods, and the Wine Nazis won’t get you (they’re not invited, anyway). Grab a few wines from this line-up, throw the bottles into an ice chest, relax and have fun.
On the other hand, nothing is more suitable to summer than the various pink wines. These are reddish wines that function like white wines, so to speak. They have the refreshing quality of white wine, but with a light, yet varying degree of red-wine color, flavor and astringency that comes from brief contact with the red grape skins.
The dry-ish Rosé wines from Southern France, Spain and Italy are being emulated even more so today by their New World counterparts. And why not? I can’t think of any type of wine that is more versatile and wellgeared toward summertime indulgence. Neither truly white nor red, these wines are extremely refreshing and sublimely suitable for the types of food and get-togethers that the summer season showcases.
So, along with that cooler of beer, keep these wines on hand this season. Kick back and relax. Because, after all, what’s the worst that can happen? These are wines you cannot help but like, and you should always drink what you like.