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Top Choice BBQ Reds and Why to Defy Convention.

The weather cooling sightly (yet not ruling out barbecues entirely) allows us to look at red wines for beef and spicy sauces.

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.

Retailer Notes

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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12 Responses

    1. Certainly a bit of bottle age will push this up a further notch or two but I was quite happy to view as one for current drinking – and I am usually someone quick to say a wine “has been released far too soon”.

  1. Morning Brian, sounds like an excellent selection you have pulled together for under the brolly cooking up here. I’m going to add the Cab Sav and Gran Reserva to the shopping list for sure. I’ve had a few bottles from Baron de Barbon before and none have failed the palate as yet.
    Gimblett Gravels…….. not had one of those for a while.

  2. If you like vegetables or grilled fish- especially tuna- on your BBQ, then a Sicilian Santa Tresa Frappato from Waitrose , now reduced by £2 to £8.99 should fit the bill.Succulent summer fruit pudding vibes , great when slightly chilled.
    Also a heads up for Coop members, a £5 off three selected wines deal (England and Wales) is active.Some nice wines like their Irresistible Marsanne,Casablanca Pinot Noir and Bio Bio Malbec included

  3. Nice Selection Brian, I particularly like all the Matsu Range including the ‘El Recio’ (tough) and the ‘Viejo’ (old) but the Picaro (rascal, rogue) lives up to its name, and at 14.5% can creep up on you. The Baron Gran Reserva is always popular and rightly so, I may be going against the grain here, but I still like to chill my reds slightly (maybe even more on a hot day) I’ve been brought up drinking Spanish reds chilled, some even out of an ice bucket ( lots of bars in Spain serve their reds cold) fair enough I suppose when it’s 30+ degrees.
    I do like most Leftfield wines, they do a lovely Albarino as well.

  4. Hi Brian … I like the sound of your opening recommendation. Sangiovese/Chianti grabs me first almost every time so next time I’m in M&S I’ll take one of them to try on whatever occasion.

    But in the meantime I picked up on some promotional excitement about Asda ES Aberdeen Angus beef burgers that would go very well on your barbecue with an Asda favourite bottle of mine. Not currently discounted in any way their Portuguese (Tejo) Bodacious at £7.25 is always a winner for me, and fits the big-red, barbecue bill perfectly.

    https://groceries.asda.com/product/all-other-grapes/bodacious-red/1000103442739

    https://groceries.asda.com/product/extra-special-beef/asda-extra-special-2-aberdeen-angus-beef-steak-burgers/1000071331659 … £3.75 but currently with 50p off!!

    Happy weekend drinking everybody …

    1. Some good tips there Eddie – and Bodacious would have been a good inclusion in my BBQ options. Both your suggestions could be suitable this weekend with the forecast even suggesting that MidWeeker Chris can put his brolly away on Saturday.

  5. I sense that both the cabernet and – especially – the Rioja will suit you nicely, Chris. Picking up on the discussion with Tom on this comments page, the cabernet will certainly mature very nicely and has plenty of palate pleasing time ahead of it.

  6. MidWeeker Keith is a great fan of that Frappato and, as he has said, it’s a terrific summer option. Good point you make about not being shy to use red wine with fish such as tuna. Obviously not anything knee-deep in tannin but light versions like that will work well. A timely reminder too about the Co-op promotion. They do indeed, have some great wines.

  7. Reds can become quite unpleasant when too hot, so keeping the temperature under control does make sense when the thermometer climbs over the 30 degrees. With you, incidentally, on the Left Field Albarino – lovely choice.

  8. Thanks for the co-op deal alert, hadn’t spotted that. I’ve enjoyed, slightly chilled, the fruity Casablanca Pinot Noir, great value in this offer. Their Viognier has very good reviews, and the Marsanne is appealing, so keen to try both of these. Also fancy the Barbera, so that’s my three – now to find my co-op members card …
    Sadly the 2021 Ch de la Petite Giraudiere Muscadet, which I drank last night, is not in the offer – otherwise I would be straight down to buy 3 more bottles – fresh, fruity a touch creamy, great value at the £7.75 list price!

  9. Great suggestions there Richard – and that Muscadet is scheduled to be a Top Tip in the near future. It is brilliant example even if the almost £8 price tab may inhibit some.

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