The first holiday of the grilling season is upon us, and if you master anything this weekend let it be that salty, savory grilled meats and tasty beverage treats go hand in hand. Whether you’re a burger traditionalist, a health-conscious outdoorsy type that’s refined the art of preparing your favorite saltwater catch or a beef-mastering, brisket-loving devotee, there is a beverage to pair with your barbecue of choice.
I’ve teamed up with the beer king of Knoxville, Chris Morton of Bearden Beer Market, to present appropriate parings of both beer and wine.
With all the innovative ingredients we Americans put on our hamburgers these days, it might seem tricky to find the right wine to match. The simple key to a good selection is versatility. Two red blends have recently arrived in local stores that will have your burger screaming for a little more wine and a little less of anything that takes away from the true flavors of the beef.
Warm weather usually means the proverbial switch to white wine. However, all those spring and summertime cookouts with lots of burgers and barbecue usually correlate to serving some easy-drinking reds. These four red wine selections are relatively new editions that are affordable, tasty and good all-around pairings.
n 2007 Coppola Celestial Blue Malbec ($14.99): The Godfather has done it again. Writer and director Francis Ford Coppola has once again extended his famous Diamond Collection of wines to include the very hot Malbec grape. Embellished with aromas of clove, pepper and allspice, the 2007 Coppola Malbec offers up black cherry flavors, a hint of cinnamon and a dash of oak influenced black fruit. Leave it to the movie maestro to work his magic on yet another wine. This one is classic Malbec with more fruit-forward enjoyment than the deluge of South American juice flooding the market.
n 2008 Darby & Joan Cabernet ($9.55): The latest roll out by one of Australia’s premier wine groups, the Grateful Palate Imports is the 2008 Darby & Joan Cabernet, an un-oaked red with loads of luscious fruit. Its bouquet opens up with a combination of plum berries and green bell pepper. Although it’s a huge 15 percent in alcohol, Darby & Joan doesn’t hog the glass like it was lugging around a lot of heat. A very gracious dose of watermelon Jolly Rancher does fade toward the end, but for under $10, this one shouldn’t disappoint.
There are a few things that go without saying this year. The holidays are busy and the stock market will make you dizzy. The mall is packed full. Sometimes we have to remind ourselves that the definitive moments with family and friends are what make this time of year special. So, the quicker you can finish that holiday gift shopping and get home, then the quicker you can enjoy being around your favorite people.
Wine, like food, is terrific for bringing people together. So for all those hard-to-shop-for people on your holiday gift list, there’s a wine that can equal their style and preference.
Malbec erupted onto the American wine scene about five years ago and, in that short time, has established itself as a Merlot substitute with a popularity on par with that of Pinot Noir. Although the Malbec grape traces its roots back to the European continent, in particularly to Bordeaux, its growth over the past half-decade has taken place in South America. There’s plenty of Malbec out there to choose from, but more and more, they seem to offer little variation. Nonetheless, whether you are a new red wine drinker, a rating’s follower or a cult wine seeker, Malbec offers a little something for everyone.
When customers are ready to make the leap from white wine to red, they are often steered toward a light California Pinot Noir. The softer tannins and low alcohol of domestic Pinot Noir make it a natural selection for breaking through to the other side. Likewise, there are a handful of inexpensive Argentine Malbecs that have a fruity profile and tamer acidity level. Some of the original leaders in that category were Alamos and Trapiche. Today, they act as ringleaders for introducing consumers to the Malbec circus and to newer brands like Cigar Box.
Cigar Box Malbec is probably the newest and hottest Malbec to come out this year. It may look like a knock-off brand, but what it lacks in original marketing it makes up for with a better price. Fruit driven and juicy, the Cigar Box covers all the flavor bases with plum, cherry and blackberry notes. It may be a little too punchy for every new red wine drinker, but it will be a good indicator as to whether those that are new to Malbec will want to stick with it. A great buy for under $10, Cigar Box is an ideal way to keep your wine selections fresh and trendy.