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Barbecue Reds

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Smokin’ hot tips for summer sippin’

Not all that long ago the term barbecue red didn’t even exist. Today, the list of wines that qualify appears endless, which makes pairing suggestions for a charbroiled hamburger to a T-bone steak hot off the grill, or anything in between, pretty much a snap.

The first duty of any barbecue red is to be affordable. This complements the casual nature of most barbecues and allows the host plenty of flexibility when it comes to stocking enough wine to deal with guest lists that frequently expand at the last minute.

The style of wine required is not as clear-cut, but there are some caveats. On the one hand, you need a wine fruity enough to breakdown the tannin, or at the very least that won’t accentuate its mouth-drying effects. On the other, it should be full-bodied and flavourful enough to withstand the multitude of sauces and strong smoky tastes associated with most barbecue.

Red wine with fish has become an acceptable match, too, but it requires a bit more attention to detail. It’s the acidity in red wine that makes the match work but only if the fish is not too oily. Lighter tannins and high fruit content work best here.

Wineries seldom characterize their wines as "barbecue reds" lest we think of them as not serious. Well, I’ve got news for them. Everyone is looking for that great barbecue red, (translation: an inexpensive, sturdy, fun-drinking wine) that will stand up to most anything that has been grilled.

In this context, I wanted to present some ideas that might pull you away from your usual tipple. If you really want to have some fun why not brown bag your offerings before dinner and allow everybody a chance to taste the wines "blind".

There’s nothing like a blind tasting to strip away preconceived notions anyone has about certain labels. It’s guaranteed to heighten the tasting experience and elevate the conversation. Most of all have fun and enjoy the summer, which, for most of us here in Canada, is all too short.

What follows are some favourite varietals you can have fun tasting blind before and during the barbecue – and consume later with dinner.

Malbec: The signature soft, black wines of Argentina and a few next door in Chile are made with malbec. Its slightly wild, fruity flavours are best tamed by beef – steak, ribs or hamburgers will do. All you need to do is add the wine.

Viu Manent Malbec 2003/2004, Valle del Colchagua, Chile

Super smooth with ripe black cherry, black plum, savoury, grilled mushroom and licorice/mocha flavours. Super suave and balanced with great varietal fruit. $13

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