Ray Isle (@islewine on Twitter) is Food & Wine's executive wine editor. We trust his every cork pop and decant – and the man can sniff out a bargain to boot. Take it away, Ray.
Memorial Day has become, informally at least, the opening day of grilling season (formally, of course, it honors fallen members of the U.S. armed forces). It’s the second most popular grilling day, after July 4 - and that translates to a whole lot of grilling.
Over 96 million U.S. households own grills, and based on figures from the ever-vigilant folks at the Hearth, Patio and Barbecue Association, about 54 million of those grills are fired up over the course of this weekend.
As for what we like to grill, in order, that’d be burgers, steak, hot dogs and chicken. So, what’s a wine that goes with all four? I’m going to suggest Grenache.
This Mediterranean grape, one of the most widely grown wine grapes in the world, has a kind of warm-climate sultriness that seems made for cookouts. It’s rich and full-bodied, but less astringently tannic than Cabernet or Malbec; its flavors suggest ripe raspberries and cherries, often with a black pepper note. Spain, where it’s known as Garnacha, produces some of the best bargains, but southern France - the Rhône and Languedoc - and Sardinia, off the coast of Italy (where it’s called Cannonau) offer great inexpensive versions, too.
In the U.S., it’s mostly grown on California’s Central Coast; most bottlings are a bit pricier there, but there are still some good, affordable wines to be found.
2011 Herencia Altés Garnatxa ($11)
Juicy, intense and a spectacular bargain, this Spanish Grenache (“Garnatxa” is the Catalan spelling) comes from ancient vines hidden away in the remote Terra Alta region.
2009 Sella & Mosca Cannonau di Sardegna Riserva ($13)
A reliable bargain, this easygoing Sardinian red shows off Grenache’s silky, aromatic side.
2011 Hahn GSM ($14)
There’s a healthy percentage of Syrah in this California red blend, plus a dab of Mourvèdre, but the core of sweet, dark cherry fruit here is all Grenache (which is 59 percent of the whole).
2010 Argiolas Costera Cannonau di Sardegna ($16)
A touch more pepperiness and aromatic intensity than the Sella & Mosca bottling make this Sardinian Grenache (Cannonau) a fantastic partner for grilled sausages or anything with a lot of spice.
2009 Palacios Remondo La Montesa ($17)
Star Spanish winemaker Alvaro Palacios blends a little Tempranillo and Mazuelo into this impressive, focused Grenache-based red from the Rioja Baja region.
More from Food & Wine:
America’s Best BBQ Cities
Best Burgers in the U.S.
America’s Most Over-the-Top Burgers
Ultimate Burger Recipes
Summer Grilling Recipes
All grilling advice on Eatocracy
– Ideal wines for grilled burgers, steaks, chicken and seafood
– Best burger-friendly wines
– Even more great wines for that burger you're eating
– Wine + BBQ = Heaven
– Chill out with wine
– Drink this with summer seafood
– Iced tea awesomeness every time
– You need to stay hydrated, might as well make it interesting
– Make perfect lemonade
– The United States of Lemonade
© 2011 American Express Publishing Corporation. All rights reserved.
My favorite whine is "Is it done yet?"
Agreed, Fred. I would recommend a nice OG Kush pre-appetizer followed by LA Confidential, Fire OG or something nice and purple from Humboldt.
Wine tastes gross. Spoiled grapes left to rot...?
How about a nice bong hit of some Northern California Sensemilla? Tastes better, makes you feel better, and you won't have to explain grabbing the neighbor's wife because you got too drunk.
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