Despite the rain that is a regular feature of our South Florida summers, we Floridians do love to cook outside. Grilling is a treasured summertime pursuit and so, during the warm weather, we have some specific (and sometimes difficult to meet) requirements in our summer wines. Fortunately, our recent Best in Glass Wine Challenge turned up some wines that will bring you accolades from all your grilling friends.
Consider what kind of food we eat when we have a backyard barbecue: smoke becomes a dominant seasoning in our food whether it’s fish, chicken or beef. If you use a barbecue sauce with your chicken or ribs, you introduce strong flavors that tend to be both acidic (from vinegar) and sweet (from sugar). So what do we need from our wines to make a good match?
Just as a good barbecue sauce has a balance of sweet and sour, a good summer wine will be both fruity and crisply acidic. One of my favorites to tote along to a backyard grill-fest is the hard to pronounce but utterly delicious white wine called Txakolina (pronounced chock-oh-LEE-nah), though it often shows up on wine lists as Txakoli (CHOCK-oh-lee). The name is Basque, and the wine is a fixture at the several Basque restaurants that turned up on the list of “The World’s 50 Best Restaurants” that was released last week. Outside of the Basque region of Spain, the wine is a bit of a rarity. In fact, other than Spain, the only other country where you can readily find Txakolina is the U.S., by far the wine’s largest export destination.
Txakolina is sometimes slightly fizzy and always crisply acidic and relatively low in alcohol (12 percent), so it is a perfect thirst quencher on hot days. It also stands up well to spicy food. At the recent Best in Glass Wine Challenge, a wonderful example of the wine, Hiruzta Txakolina, captivated the judges and earned a gold medal and that is the wine I’m recommending today.
What does it taste like? It’s bright pale lemon yellow in the glass, and the aromas are elusive and captivating – I get apple, pear and some grapefruit and pineapple, quite a fruit basket! On the palate, this crisp wine gets your salivary glands pumping with citrus and pear wrapped up in that bracing acidity. What works particularly well for me is that, with that vibrant acidity, it is a wine that cleans the palate, even when you are eating spicy barbecue or burgers with sweet ketchup.
For the wine geeks among you, the full name of the wine region is Getariako Txakolina; if the label also includes the name of the main grape (hondarrabi zuri) things rapidly get complicated with consonants. Just keep in mind the name of the winery – Hiruzta – and the type of wine – Txakolina – and you will have all you need to find this refreshing summer quaff – as you can see, the wine bottle has an easy to read label to make your purchase even easier. Pick up a bottle and take it to your next cookout to amaze your friends – odds are they haven’t tried a Txakolina before and you are about to be a wine hero. And you will be a happy imbiber as well!