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Memorial Day BBQ Bash: 3 Wines to Geek Out Over (While Grilling)

CorkRules | May 17, 2024


Memorial Day weekend signals the official kick-off to summer, and what better way to celebrate than a backyard barbecue with friends and family? But for the wine lovers out there, the usual pairing of burgers and beer can feel a little, well, uninspired.

Fear not, fellow geeks! Let's ditch the predictable and dive into three exciting wine options that will have you sipping and savoring alongside the sizzling BBQ.

1. The Smoky Sangiovese for the Grill Master:

Sangiovese, the backbone of Chianti Classico, is a fantastic choice for the grill. It offers bright acidity to cut through rich meats and smoky flavors that complement the char from the grill. Look for bottles from regions like Montalcino (Brunello di Montalcino) or Montepulciano (Vino Nobile di Montepulciano) for a touch more structure and depth. Feeling adventurous? Explore a smoky Sangiovese from lesser-known regions in Tuscany like Maremma or Colli Senesi for a truly unique pairing.

Castello di Volpaia - Chianti Classico 2021 - $23.99

Castello di Volpaia is located in an 11th century village that bears the same name. It sits on a hilltop just north of the town of Radda in Chianti, 2,024 feet above sea level, in the heart of the Chianti Classico region. One of the most historical wineries of the region, Volpaia is owned by the Mascheroni-Stianti family and benefits from some of the highest altitude southern exposure vineyards of the area, delivering certified organic Sangiovese-based wines of finesse and elegance with a terroir approach.

Wine Spectator: 92 Points

A racy version, this boasts black cherry, blueberry, violet and iron flavors. A firm line of tannins works in concert with the acidity, while flashes of Mediterranean scrub peek through. Mouthwatering finish. Sangiovese and Merlot. Drink now through 2032.

Vinous: 92 Points

The 2021 Chianti Classico is an absolute joy. Fragrant, silky and super-expressive, the 2021 captures all the finesse of Radda. Crushed red berry fruit, rose petal, orange peel and mint are all beautifully delineated in a vibrant, mid-weight Chianti Classico that has so much to offer. This is a fine showing. - Antonio Galloni

2. The Gamay Gems for the Lighter Fare:

Don't relegate Gamay to Beaujolais Nouveau! This versatile grape thrives in cool climates, producing wines with vibrant acidity and juicy red fruit notes. Cru Beaujolais wines like Fleurie or Morgon offer a delightful complexity, while Gamay from other regions like the Loire Valley in France or even New York State can be surprisingly delicious with lighter grilled fare like chicken or veggie burgers.

Michel Lafarge - Bourgogne Rouge Passetoutgrain L'Exception 2020 - $36.99

Size: 1.00 ha (2.47 ac) / Variety: 50% Pinot Noir, 50% Gamay / Vine Age: Planted in 1926 / Terroir: Clay limestone soil / Viticulture: Certified organic (Ecocert) and biodynamic (Demeter) / Vinification: 100% de-stemmed, lightly crushed, pneumatic press, indigenous yeast fermentation. Aged for 15-18 months in barrel, unfiltered.

Decanter: 93 Points

A deeply lovely fruit character, with plenty of forward red berry fruit nicely dressed with floral notes and a silky, fine texture which is set off by a lively and refreshing acidity. A perennial favourite and exceptional indeed. This is produced from a blend of half Pinot Noir and half Gamay, both from 95-year-old biodynamically worked vines. The grapes are destemmed and fermented on native yeasts prior to ageing over two winters in cask.  Drinking 2022 -2030 —  Charles Curtis MW

Wine Advocate

The 2020 Bourgogne Passetoutgrain l'Exception bursts with aromas of sweet red berries, petals and orange rind. Medium-bodied, bright and lively, with powdery tannins and a tightly knit core, don't underestimate this bottling: it will really reward some patience, and especially so this year. Drinking 2023 - 2040— William Kelley 

3. The Sparkling Extravaganza for Pure Fun:

Let's not forget the fun factor! Sparkling wines are fantastic BBQ companions, offering a refreshing palate cleanse between bites and a festive air to the occasion. Explore beyond the usual Prosecco and delve into grower Champagnes for a truly celebratory experience. For something different, try a Lambrusco from Emilia-Romagna in Italy. These slightly sweet, fizzy reds are perfect with grilled sausages or spicy dishes.

Saetti - Rosso Dell Emilia Viola Lambrusco 2022 - $23.99

Luciano Saetti makes stunning, evocative Lambrusco just outside of Modena. He is of a generation that decided to return to traditional methods and eschew modern practices that contributed to Lambrusco's poor reputation. The 2.8 hectares of vines he works were planted by his family in 1964. Prior to his taking over, they sold off most of their fruit to the local coop.

Luciano, however, thought that they could do better and so after a successful first career as an egg distributor in Modena, he founded Vigneto Saetti in 1998. He saw the value in the family’s old vines of a particular local strain of the Lambrusco grape called Salamino di Santa Croce. It’s thick-skinned, tight-bunched, darker-colored and higher in natural acidity than some other more common varieties of Lambrusco.

Bonus Tip: Consider the weather! If it's a scorcher, opt for lighter-bodied wines like Gamay or chilled reds like Sangiovese. For cooler evenings, a bolder Zinfandel or a GSM blend (Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre) could be delightful.

So, this Memorial Day weekend, ditch the ordinary and embrace the extraordinary. With these exciting wine options, your BBQ will be a celebration for the taste buds as well as a toast to good times with loved ones.


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