6th July 2021 by Rachel Wallhouse

The title could mean a lot of things really, from the ripening of grapes, the opening of flowers or the sting of sunburn but what I’m on about is the impromptu Barbecue. There you are minding your own business, trying to read that book that’s been on the bedside table for so long it left its shadow when you picked it up, then a head appears over the fence (Or a whatsapp message).
“Just wondered if you fancied a glass, Matt?”
“Well, actually, I’ve just opened something, why not pop round here?” I’m sure they can hear a cork pop or screw cap crack from a thousand yards.
And so it begins, a couple of glasses, then it’s a little furtive look at the rack, what next I wonder. Hang on, I’m hungry too. Then all of a sudden, a quick dash to the supermarket and the Impromptu Barbecue begins, a couple of phone calls to other friends and we are cooking for a dozen people, and my wine rack takes a bashing.

I think the best thing about wines and BBQ’s is that anything goes really. The food can vary from light salads to spicy chicken to charred sausages and that means wines from bubbles to aromatic whites to plummy reds.

Let’s start with the fizz, I’m a huge fan of Cava from Spain. Usually made from Parellada, Xarel-lo and Macabeo, recent changes have meant that other grapes can be used including Chardonnay. It’s made in the same way that Champagne is and can spend over a year
developing in the bottle. One such sparkling wine is Jansz Brut £17.99 from Tasmania, made in the same way as Champagne, and from Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. It spends a year and a half developing in the bottle before its release it has several layers of flavours ranging from the light initial floral and citrus notes, a hint of brioche and some nutty, honey flavours in the finish. Great served chilled with seafood and chicken. And if people want something a bit sweeter, then add some bits of fruit such as mango pulp.

For the salads, there is always Rosé wines, from crisp, dry Provence styles to the much more fruity wines from Anjou in Loire. They pair well with salads and green vegetables better than most other wines, especially the wines from the South of France. One such wine is Selladore 2020 £16.99 (The new name for Chase rosé) made from Syrah, Grenache, Cinsault and Vermentino. It’s a very pale pink colour, bone dry with great hints of citrus and stone fruit. This matches so well with salads and chicken but can be enjoyed as the BBQ is coming up to heat!

There is always a point where spicier options are put on the BBQ, whether it’s spicy chicken wings or sweeter spiced ribs, now it’s time for some aromatic white wines. These are some of my favourite styles of wines, from Riesling to Gewurztraminer to Viognier. But one of my favourites are from Australia, Rieslingfreak No.4 2019 Eden Valley £14.99, this is not the normal sweeter style of Riesling, but jam packed full of citrus fruits from lemons to lime and grapefruit too. It has a long finish, it will more than keep up with the spicy chicken wings and cut through the fatty ribs as well, especially if you’ve got a blue cheese dressing.

Now we come to the meaty bit, something that might need a bit of red wine to go with. Now is not the time for light delicate reds such as Pinot Noir, it’s time for something with a bit more oomph. So many to choose from, but quality and value go hand in hand when it’s from South Africa. The South African wine industry are going through it a bit at the moment with their fourth ban on alcohol sales in the country. This closes an important market for the industry and forces more reliance on their export market. With the first South African vines planted in 1685, they have a wealth of experience and Buitenverwachting (meaning ‘Beyond Expectation’) are one of the most respected. Their Buitenverwachting Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot Blend 2018 £11.99 is full of cassis and plums, there’s some spices from oak barrels and a long finish with a hint of smoke to go with those sausages, they’re not burnt just nicely charred.

There comes a time at my BBQ’s where everyone has gone home, except my neighbour Paul. It’s time for Dirty Burgers. What’s a Dirty Burger, I hear you ask. Its whatever is left, and two quarter pounders that I’ve kept hidden just for this occasion. First, a smear of blue cheese on the bottom bun, then some slow cooked onions, pop the burger on next. Then some bacon (or a left over sausage) now the inevitable burger cheese slice, now some peperonata (slow oven roasted peppers, garlic and chorizo), maybe a little mustard and burger bun on top. Now the wine, Petit Caro 2017 Malbec/Cabernet Sauvignon Mendoza £19.99. A collaboration with the Rothschild family and the family of Nicolas Catena. Chock full of blue and black fruits, blueberries, plums and cassis. Long finish with hints of dark chocolate. A well deserved finale from all that standing at the grill and feeding everyone else, and a super wine to chill with friends as the sun goes down. It’s what enjoying wine is all about, that Sense Of Place.

This column first appeared in the Lancashire Post