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Schrader on Wine: Fire up the grill, uncork the wine

Caroline Schrader is wine columnist for SouthtownStar newspaper Food section. | Brett Roseman~Sun-Times Media

Caroline Schrader is the wine columnist for the SouthtownStar newspaper Food section. | Brett Roseman~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: July 17, 2013 8:18AM



The warm summer months are upon us, and it’s time to celebrate with wine.

I love cooking and eating meals outdoors during the summer. What’s even better is enjoying wine with friends and family at picnics and barbecues.

Wine is not always thought of as a perfect companion to classic picnic dishes, though. Many turn to beer, cider or other beverages during the hot days. But if you’re a “wino” like me, wine is enjoyed no matter the season or temperature.

Finding the right wine that pairs appropriately with your outdoor meal is key. There’s something for everyone. Red or white, dry or sweet, there’s a wine out there that’s just right with your favorite summertime meal.

Below are my recommendations on wines to try with classic summer dishes. So fire up the grill, gather your family and friends, and uncork the wine.

Fruit salad and Pinot Grigio

Pinot Grigio’s subdued palate is a perfect complement to the sweet and tart flavors of fruit salad. The wine’s soft and modest aromas of pear and nectarines also pair nicely with seafood, chicken and a variety of lighter foods.

Try: 2012 Woodbridge by Robert Mondavi Pinot Grigio, $8

Summer vegetables and Sauvignon Blanc

Nothing says summer like sweet corn, asparagus, tomatoes and whatever else you’re growing in your vegetable garden. Sauvignon Blanc pairs extraordinarily well with any vegetable. Its citrus flavors and acidity are perfect when enjoyed with the mild flavors of veggies.

Try: 2012 Franciscan Estate Equilibrium White Blend, $23

Hot dogs and dry Riesling

What summer picnic is complete without hot dogs? Chicago-style hot dogs, no less. The saltiness of the hot dog and tangy condiments complement an acidic and dry wine, such as a dry Riesling, nicely. It’s important to drink a dry Riesling, instead of a sweet Riesling, when pairing with hot dogs. In general, dry wines complement salty and tangy foods better than sweet wines.

Try: 2012 Trefethen Family Vineyards Dry Riesling, $23

Fried chicken and champagne

Just like you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, don’t judge a wine and food pairing from the way it sounds. Champagne doesn’t have to be enjoyed just with caviar; the wine is finding a more casual place at the table these days. The carbonation of this dry and refreshing drink complements the crispy skin and tender chicken. You can substitute any dry sparkling wine for champagne.

Try: Veuve Clicquot Yellow Label Brut Champagne, $40

Pulled pork and Chianti

If you thought Italian wines were to be enjoyed with Italian foods only, think again! Chianti is regarded as a high-quality wine from Italy, yet at a good price point. Many people enjoy drinking this wine with roasted meats and stews, or simply by itself. This full-bodied red wine is abundant in dark cherry and wild berry flavors with hints of chocolate and spices, such as cloves and peppercorn. The fruity flavors and the perfect amount of tannins complement barbecue pulled pork very well.

Try: 2009 Marchesi de’Frescobaldi Nipozzano Riserva Chianti DOCG, $19

Hamburgers and Zinfandel

This wine and food combination should be a summer staple. The flavors of blackberries, black cherry, cinnamon and vanilla make Zinfandel a highly complex wine. The balance between the acidity and tannins from oak barrels makes this wine one of my favorite “big reds” to enjoy with burgers and steak from the grill. Try a black peppercorn rub on the burgers or steak to get that “wow factor” when enjoying with Zinfandel.

Try: 2010 Ravenswood Sonoma County Old Vine Zinfandel, $16

Caroline Schrader is a wine writer and wine consultant serving the Chicago area.

Follow her on Facebook and Twitter and visit www.carolineschrader.com.



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