I’ve read all sorts about what Reds to put with BBQs and I’ve tried all those that I’ve read about and I have to confess that I haven’t been bowled over by any of them. They miss the point in my opinion of what a BBQ is all about, so I’m sharing some thoughts on my general BBQ feeling, how much sway that has over what red I serve and my top picks that are easy to get hold of, won’t break the bank and are completely delicious … and why. 
My perfect BBQ … 
 
Generally, if you’re anything like me, you’ll fire up the BBQ when it’s warm outside. The sun’s shining, our friends are chilling in shorts, loose trousers/dresses and t-shirts …. it’s casual and all of the articles I’ve read about ‘best wines for BBQs’ talk about wine and food matching. My shout is for the red wine to match the vibe. We’re not talking about anything poncy here – no decanting, no big, structured, powerful reds that take themselves too seriously, no Gucci handbags, nothing too subtle … simply good honest, fruit-driven reds with character. Here below are a couple of teasers ….. 
Owner Berty Eden makes really super wines - honest, interesting and absolutely true to their terroir. Seriously bbq’ably delicious.. 
Syrah is such a wonderful grape variety. When grown well it delivers freshness, fruitiness and deliciousness in spades and this wine does just that. 

Food and Wine Matching: 

In my experience, no matter how good the ingredients that you’re putting on the grill are, the overriding flavour I get off all my direct heat BBQing is that delicious smoky, burnt fat flavour seeping through every pour of what I’ve cooked … even the veg. it’s completely delicious but I could never sell it as being subtle. I would add that I fancy myself on the BBQ too. I’m a mid-life crisis aspirational. I use proper grade natural lumpwood charcoal, natural lighters and I’ve even gone and got myself a highly overpriced and cumbersome Big Green Egg, which, (strike me down you Big Green Egg disciples) does everything and nothing more than a Webber Kettle can do but costs five times as much … and I love it by the way. 
I’m also careful about the quality of meat and veg I put on the BBQ. It’s all carefully sourced, 
top quality and primed for top tastiness. But, all that aside, while the end result is often super tasty, it’s not subtle, and I don’t want the wine to be too subtle either. It’s got to stand out when I take a gulp having opened the lid of my BBQ and got a head full of smoke … and it’s got to make me smile. It’s possible to really disappear up one’s own behind analysing wine matching to BBQ food and that’s a big ‘no no’ from me. 

Here are a couple of Italian crackers that I’ve found from Tesco recently: 

This is just too gluggable for words and, served slightly cool on a warm Summers day is even more so. 
Allegrini is the undisputed heavyweight champion of Amarone and here’s his ‘house red’ and it couldn’t be tastier if it tried. 
 

So, if that sets the scene for what I want my red wines to give me and my guests … here’s a bit about the qualities I’ve found work: 

Critical to having a happy smile when you give them a glass of wine in BBQ land is giving them a joyful, tasty, fresh red wine. By that I mean wines with plenty of fruit and plenty of vitality. These aren’t mature, fine wines (which I love too of course). They’re not wines to ponder over, discuss and savour. They’re wines to be drinking whilst smelling the great aromas coming off the BBQ. Fresh, floral and fragrant, whatever the weather … and if it’s sunny and warm then I’m going to serve them slightly chilled. 
 
So, here are the tips …. 

Tip #1 - Serve them Chilled 

Well firstly they’ve got to be lower in alcohol - 13% or under I’d recommend. It’s true that we often serve red wines too warm anyway, particularly the big, powerful, full-bodied reds that, if served too warm, can tasty gloopy and soupy. Take a big, bold Argentinian Malbec, Californian Cab or Ozzy Shiraz for example; wines that are often high in tannin and alcohol but slightly soft in acidity, you want to be careful about serving these too warm. It’s worth noting that ‘room temperature,’ which we often recommend for serving red wines, refers to ‘room temperature’ before we had central heating … oh, and before global warming was a global phenomenon too. But back to lighter alcohol wines, some of which fair well when served well below room temperature, outside, al fresco in the warm Summer sunshine. The lower alcohol helps keep the flavours fresh and bright and allows the wine to retain and show a bit of bite and structure, making them taste ‘alive.’ 
And they have got to be youthfull. 

Here are two that work really well chilled by the BBQ: 

I go a bit funny about Zweigelt from Austria … I love it and this is a super example – a blueberry and blackcurrant kaleidoscope. 
This is such a joyful, tasty wine, ram packed with tangy strawberry fruit. 
 

Tip #3 - Don’t overpay 

There should be a nice, easy clean correlation between price and quality but as we all know, quality is in the eyes of the beholder and let’s face it, we’ll pay a lot more than we should be paying for our bottle if we’re shopping at Fags and Mags, our local corner shop … and the quality’s unlikely to be top dollar. So, a couple of simple rules here – shop from a well-known supermarket, chain store or wine merchant and don’t pay less than £10 or more than £20 a bottle. In fact, I think over £15 is toppy for a BBQ red and I’d have to know that what I’m paying for is worth it to part with more. 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Here are a couple in the sweet spot: 

A really great example of Central Otago Pinot. Spicy, sweet and fresh in every way. 
This estate makes wonderfully forward wines, very much true to their South African patronage. 

Tip #2 – Choose the young ones 

As red wines age they lose primary aromas so the bright, fresh fruit fades to be replaced with little unless the wines are very good quality. When they are such good quality, that’s when these fading primary flavours get replaced with complex secondary ones – not directly relatable to fruit but more of the leather, tar, cigar box kind of vibe. Often delicious in their own right, but definitely not what I would want to be drinking round the BBQ. I want to serve my BBQ reds bright, fresh and lively. I want those primary aromas and flavours in spades, so I’d be looking at reds that are no more than three years old. 
 
 
 
 
 

Try these below: a 

Bierzo from North Western Spain is such a vibrant wine. Floral and fruity and brilliantly energetic. 
My gem grape of Northern Italy and a hidden treasure. Full of bright blueberry fruit so drink it young. 

Tip #4 – Follow the Rule Book 

By this I’m homing in on quality. So many red wines tick the boxes above and are indeed high in quality but they’re lacking in character. By character I mean I get flavours that are beyond fruit and acidity. There’s something else in there that gives the wine freshness and makes we want another gulp – note that I’m not looking for another ‘taste,’ this is BBQ season and I’m gulping my delicious red, not tasting it. What I look for is what some folk in the wine world term minerality and there’s a whole rabbit hole/slagging match you can get in to with that one but suffice to know for the purposes of this blog, it definitely exists and it gives a wine something that’s terribly difficult to pinpoint in flavour terms, but it is ….. freshness. Look for a wine that’s been produced to some sort of law or legislation. An AOC wine from France or DOC from Italy, DO from Spain, DAC from Austria and yes, wait for it, I’d probably be heading to Europe because it’s here that I find you get more of what the French call ‘goût de terroir’ (taste of the earth). Vines that are made to work hard - little to no irrigation forcing them to drill their roots deep in to the soil and suck up nutrients that give the wine that …. Freshness. 

Here’s a couple of top examples below: 

A Loire red. Cabernet Franc is the grape variety and it’s not to everybody’s taste but it sure is mine. Crunchy, raspberry fruit and a wine of real character. This is what they’d traditionally serve out of pichets in the cafés, wine bars of Paris 
..… and a wine from my favourite appellation in Beaujais. It doesn’t get much more honest and delicious than this. 

So, what would be my tip top perfect choice? The wine that ticks the ‘low alcohol,’ ‘freshness,’ ‘juiciness,’ ‘fruitiness’ boxes all in one …. and costs £15 …ish ..?.. 

.… and why? …. 

Because it encapsulates all the joy in the Juliénas above but puts a degree of flesh, complexity and class into it too. So, it’s the perfect wine to glug while cooking then enjoy with butterflied leg of lamb too. 
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