Apr 26 2016

In Canada, ‘tis the season to head outdoors and dine al fresco. Whether you’ve got a no-frills charcoal-burning hibachi or a tricked-out gas unit packed with bells and whistles, dust off your grill. Barbecue season is here! While most folks pair barbecue with beer, you are not “most folks.” You know that wine always has a place at the dinner table, even when the table’s set under the open sky. Here are some tips for hosting a wine-friendly barbecue.

Keep It Cool

Barbecue fare is best accompanied with chilled beverages. When it’s hot outside and you’re dining on steaming fresh-off-the-grill delights, you’ll appreciate washing them down with a cold drink. Serve sparklers, whites and reds chilled, and keep the bottles in tubs of ice. If you’re hesitant to chill your Cabernet Franc or Merlot, try it. Chilled, the tannins in reds take on a slightly sweeter, refreshing flavor that’s ideal for sipping and savoring on a sweltering day.

Keep It Reasonable

Barbecues are casual, informal and low-key. The food is bold and flavorful; let it be the star and your wine be the supporting act. Save your prized 2002 Daniel Lenko Viognier Icewine for a truly memorable occasion. There are plenty of outstanding Ontario wines in the $10-$20 range.

Keep It Flowing

Avoid your barbecue screeching to an abrupt halt: make sure you have enough wine on-hand. Assume your guests will enjoy two glasses during the first hour of your barbecue, and one glass every subsequent hour. To decide how much wine to buy, determine how many adults will attend and multiply that number by how many drinks each will probably have. A 750-ml bottle of wine yields about five servings. Divide the number of drinks you expect to serve by five to determine how many bottles to buy. And make sure you have a plan for getting your guests home safely. The LCBO has some great tips so that guests aren’t drinking and driving. www.deflatetheelephant.com.

Perfect Pairings

Regardless of what grilled delights are on your menu (hot dogs and burgers, ribs and chicken, veggies and shrimp, even pineapple and bananas), there are wines that will elevate them. Following are some tips on smart pairings.

Sparkling Wines

Why not welcome guests with a sparkler? Fresh, fruity sparkling wines are ideal accompaniments to appetizers like fruit and cheese trays.
Try: Fresh Sparkling Rose VQA ($14.95); Colio Lily Sparkling Méthode Cuve Close VQA ($16.95)

Reds

Hearty meats require hearty wines that can stand up to bold flavours. If smoky brisket or bacon-wrapped fillets are on the menu, reach for reds with tannins that will compliment these rich dishes.
Cabernet Franc : Earthy, dry and medium-bodied, this varietal is a barbecue staple. Try: Sandbanks Cabernet Franc VQA ($14.95); Featherstone Cabernet Franc VQA ($18.95).
Pinot Noir : Light-bodied with a fruity finish, chilled pinot noir is an ideal accompaniment for grilled meats. Try: Pelee Island Pinot Noir VQA ($13.95); Broken Stone Winery Pinot Noir VQA ($25).

Whites

Chilled whites elevate grilled seafood, chicken, veggies and even barbecue classics like burgers and hot dogs.
Sauvignon Blanc : Dry, light-bodied sauvignon blanc is a good all-around choice. Try: Open Sauvignon Blanc VQA ($12.95); Cave Spring Sauvignon Blanc VQA ($16.95).
Chardonnay : Stock up on versatile light, crisp, fruity Chardonnay for your barbecue. Try: Dan Akroyd VQA Chardonnay ($10.20); Rosehall Run Liberated Chardonnay VQA ($14.95).

Rosés

Easy-going, fruity and aromatic, rosés compliment veggies and fish especially well.
Try: Sanbanks Rosé VQA ($12.95); Chadsey’s Cairns Roxey Rosé VQA ($19.20).

Icewine

Pair your dessert course with a sweet Icewine and consider it the cherry on top of your successful dinner party.
Try: Inniskillin Vidal Icewine ($22.75); Colio Cev Vidal Icewine ($14.75).

Just because barbecues are casual doesn’t mean they can’t be refined. Grab your stemware and let the wine flow!