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Food and Wine - Barbecue
Copyright 2001 by Robin Garr. All rights reserved. Originally printed June 15, 2001. For more information go to

As summer settles in and steamy, sultry weather becomes the norm for the duration, a lot of us will be firing up our barbecue grills to beat the heat.

The smoke and spice and sweet or hot tomato-based sauces that often accompany barbecue aren't really friendly to the finest wines, which is why cold beer in long-neck bottles or oversize glasses of freshly brewed iced tea are the traditional beverages.

But there's no reason you can't enjoy wine with barbecue, particularly if you define "barbecue" as grilled meat or poultry and hold back on the sauce.

Zinfandel, that quintessentially American red, is an obvious choice. Its exuberant berrylike fruitiness makes it a natural match with grilled meats, and even the big, alcoholic styles meet their match in the hearty flavors of barbecue. If you live in parts of the world where Zin isn't readily available, you can do just about as well with plummy Southern Italian reds or the fruitier styles of Australian Shiraz. Grenache and Syrah-based wines from Southern France, from the Rhone to Languedoc, will also make a fine barbecue match, as will the fruity Spanish reds made from Grenache, which the locals call Garnacha.

The common denominator is fruit, and all these fruit-laden wines will marry with barbecue as well as, and more elegantly than, the traditional grape Kool-Aid.


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