First published in The Irish Times, Saturday 13th August, 2022
At this time of year, we need to make the most of our barbecue opportunities, before the cooler days set in. The Irish barbecue has become more varied and more sophisticated in recent years, and this requires a more nuanced approach to wine. But a great many still revolve around red meat, and if I am cooking beef or lamb in some form, I still hanker for a full-bodied red wine.
While you could certainly go for a Zinfandel or Cabernet from California, or a rich red from South Africa, the Languedoc or southern Italy, this week I have chosen wines from Argentina and Ribera del Duero in Spain, both regions expert at the art of grilling and barbecuing. However, just about every country produces a full-bodied red wine that will go down well with a barbecue.
The Cillar del Silos featured here is the best-selling wine for WineSpark, a newish company that claims to sell all of their wines at cost price. Obviously, I cannot verify this, but the prices are certainly highly competitive. The only downside is you have to take out a subscription — that is how they make their money — but the company’s website is certainly worth a look. Ribera del Duero is one of the most famous regions in Spain. A rival to Rioja, it produces richer more full-bodied wines, usually from the Tempranillo grape known as Tinto Fino or Tinto del País there.
Navarra, next door to Rioja, was once best-known for a rich rosé made from the Garnacha grape, otherwise known as Grenache. More recently, it has been producing very good red wines, typically lighter and fruitier than those from other regions. I thought the Volandera featured here would make a great all-purpose barbecue wine. I had forgotten how good it was until tasted again recently after a long gap.
The Gran Corte is a classic Malbec with a twist or two. Firstly, it is blended with 8 per cent Cabernet Franc and 6 per cent Tannat to add structure and complexity. The wine is then aged in used French and American oak barrels, adding a spiciness and rounded tannins. Finally, the Amalaya vineyards are, at 1,800 metres, bringing a unique combination of freshness and concentration.
The Luna Single Vineyard Malbec comes from the highly regarded Agrelo region. Close to the city of Mendoza, it is home to some of the most prestigious producers. It is rare to see a single vineyard wine from the region selling for less than €10.
If the weather is hot, remember to keep the reds cool, ideally at around 16-18 degrees. No wine, even the most full-bodied red, tastes good served warm, especially on a hot sunny day. And have plenty of lighter wines, beer or alcohol-free options for before and after your food.
Lidl Luna Single Vineyard Malbec, Agrelo, Argentina
Rich rounded soft dark fruits with subtle vanilla and a savoury touch. Perfect with a burger or beef ribs.
Volandera Garnacha 2021, Navarra
Medium to full-bodied, this delicious exuberant wine, replete with fresh raspberry and strawberry fruits, is big enough to take on red meats yet light enough to go well with pork, poultry and grilled Mediterranean vegetables
From McCurtain Wine Cellar, Cork; Baggot Street Wines; Blackrock Cellar; Greenville Deli, D6; TheNudeWineCo.ie; Sweeney’s D3; Liliput, D7; Brindle, D8; Clontarf Wines, D3; A Taste of Spain, D1 & D2; Manning’s Emporium, Co. Cork
Ribero del Duero Crianza 2018, Cillar de Silos
Voluptuous smooth ripe dark fruits with a lightly spicy touch and a savoury finish. The local speciality is baby lamb roasted whole in a clay asador, but lamb chops, steak, mushrooms or aged Manchego would all do nicely as well.
Amalaya Gran Corte 2020, Malbec, Cabernet Franc, Calchaquí Valley, Argentina
An excellent deeply flavoured wine that combines power with a certain elegance. Rich ripe forest fruits, dark chocolate and spice combine nicely leading to a long, dry finish. Perfect with a posh barbecue.
From Barnhill Stores, Dalkey; Baggot Street Wines; Clontarf Wines; Power & Co, Lucan; World Wide Wines, Waterford; Wineonline.ie