By Rick Riozza

Through the years we have always included a summer column on wine recommendations for the barbecue. Well—here we go again with perhaps some new ideas on matching wines to the stuff we’re cooking up.

Of course, let’s generalize on the subject on hand: We don’t have to twist many arms when it comes to wine lovers in the sunshine with a delicious glass of wine. Choosing a good bottle for your BBQ can really elevate the occasion. And of late, one can also look to the new wave of canned wines or box wines as well. So many wine options are out there and it’s easy to decide.

Since everybody is doing spicy food these days, it’s good to remember the fruitier reds and wines with a touch of sweetness. A few styles to consider when matching wines with spicy food:

  • Off-dry Riesling or rosé
  • Grenache and Syrah/Shiraz blends
  • Champagne
  • California Chardonnay
  • Sparkling Shiraz
  • Ripe Pinot Noir with more aromatic dishes

Off-dry white wines, such as Riesling, are often touted as a good match for spicy foods, because the slight sweetness can help to reduce the heat.

Bold and fruity reds, such as Grenache and Syrah / Shiraz blends, or California Chardonnay with a dose of new oak spice are both options for those seeking bolder styles. Interestingly, a rather creamy and really mature Champagne goes well with chili-accented dishes. Off-dry wines work particularly well if there is also an element of sweetness in the spicy BBQ sauce.

Sausages with lots of herbs, such as fennel or sage, could be fun with a juicy red. A Grenache blend from southern Rhône could be a winner, particularly if you can find one with herbal hints of ‘garrigue’.

Rounder, gutsier Pinot Noirs that border on plummy fruitiness work well with bbq. Also look to a sparkling Shiraz.

The Syrah, Mourvèdre and Cabernet Sauvignon blend makes for a rich full-bodied wine with floral notes, spices and liquorice.

Fuller-bodied rosé wines can also stand up well to spice and bbq. Rosés from the New World tend to be riper and sweeter than their European counterparts and go extremely well with BBQ fare, necessarily an off-putting quality when they are paired with spicy food.

My wine recommendation for the summer barbecue is indeed a full-bodied rosé: 2019 Unshackled Rose Wine ($22) created by the innovative winemakers of The Prisoner Wine Company. This bright and crisp rosé wine meets all the requirements for the summer fare. Opening with aromas of citrus as well as hints of strawberry and melon Flavors of grapefruit, tangerine, and lemon bestow lively acidity to this California blush wine, providing a crisp finish. Sourced from California’s Central and North Coasts, the premium varietals of Pinot Noir, Syrah, Grenache, and Mourvedre instill this fine wine with ageability.

Here are some wine pairings for classic barbecue dishes.

  • SteakMalbec, Syrah/Shiraz
  • Burgers – Zinfandel, Grenache blends (like Côtes du Rhône), Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Sausages – Gamay, Pinot Noir
  • BBQ chickenTempranillo Warmer climate Chardonnay
  • Pork chops – Valpolicella, Barbera,Riesling, dry rosé
  • Salmon – Rosé Champagne, Pinot Gris, Chilled Pinot Noir
  • Sardines – Albariño, Picpoul de Pinet
  • Halloumi (semi-hard, unripened cheese)– Sauvignon Blanc, Sémillon, Assyrtiko (Greek white)
  • Veggie Skewers – Chenin Blanc (fresher styles), dry rosé, Gamay

After a short summer break, Wednesday night jazz at Ace Hotel & Swim Club returns on July 21. There’s another stellar calendar of SoCal artists who are emerging from the exploding LA jazz renaissance booked for the next two weeks until the full August roster is announced.

Wednesday from 7–9 pm for a night of auditory bliss, paired with a menu of delights from the kitchen and a very friendly wine list. We’ll review that wine list next time. Dinner reservations are highly recommended — you can make them online at Cheers!