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Wines for a good grilling

Barbecue weather is here. Chances are that you left it late to get your grill kit up to snuff and are caught tongs down with little time to think what wine to serve with what’s cooking on the white hot coals.

You might be tempted to raid your wine cache, but eating outdoors is probably not the occasion to uncork your most precious label. Sea breezes, dusty gusts and the merest whiff of smoke from the grill will waft away its delicate bouquet before you even get your nose near the glass.

However, you don’t want to spoil a good meal by serving a poor bottle either. All-rounders which suit the summer heat are your best bet. If the wine matches the sizzling nosh, too, then that’s all the better.

The wilting temperatures at lunchtime, the balminess of our Maltese summer nights and the casual nature of the open-air setting of a barbecue, all make us long for refreshing, younger and more upfront fruity wines than the hearty, rich wines we would chose to drink with the same foods prepared indoors in winter.

A summertime wine’s main purpose is to refresh and to open the appetite. There are ample fresh whites and rosés which can be served as an aperitif and have enough forward fruitiness so that they can be enjoyed throughout the entire meal, even if you’re cooking up a carnivore’s mixed platter.

The possibilities are many, but Delicata’s fleshier Pjazza Reġina blend of Vermentino, Moscato and other locally-grown quality grape varieties is definitively a delicious white wine to try. Not only does it tick all the boxes, there is also something to be said for drinking a Maltese wine which is born of the summer heat of this place, especially when grilling for family and friends from overseas.

Their cool serving temperature makes white and pink wines go so well with flamed nosh on a warm day; they can work even better if they are slightly fizzy.

Many sparklers, admittedly, are too light and dry, but our local Ġellewża Frizzante works wonders. The advantage being that this ultra-local, semi-sparkling pink has bags of fruity goodness, a hint of sweetness and palate-cleansing effervescence to cope with taxing marinades and barbecue sauces that can leave many a wine for dead.

I know, generally the inclination is to pick stronger more assertive wines with punch to push through grilled food, especially when it’s all large chunks of meat on the grill. Full-bodied reds with plenty of tannin and heavily-oaked white wines seem the natural choice.

The problem is that these bolder types of wines usually also have a higher alcoholic strength. I find strong, heady bottles undesirable on a very hot day, particularly if I’m the guy left mastering the flames.

Lower alcohol content makes for a lighter wine that complements the searing weather nicely and leaves you feeling much lighter than the big bruisers of bottles.

If you absolutely want red wine with grilled steak, remember that a fatty cut such as tenderloin, T-bone and rib-eye pairs well with bolder and rather tannic wines made from grape varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Shiraz. Leaner cuts like sirloin, white meats and poultry team-up better with tarter Sangiovese and Grenache based reds.

But I wouldn’t try to match the hotness of the barbie with power in the glass. Seriously, on a tropical day, it’s better to opt for unoaked, deeply fruity wines that are neither too alcoholic nor overtly tannic.

A local red wine that handles barbecued chump chops well when cooled down is Pjazza Reġina made from locally-grown Syrah and Merlot grapes. This medium-bodied red is great value, rimming with vibrant moreish red and black fruit flavours and grippy yet pleasant tannins.

Whether white, pink or red, the only way to serve wine at a barbecue is chilled – poured in a glass rather than a plastic cup please!

Georges Meekers is Delicata’s head of sales and an award-winning wine writer.

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