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As a retired Michelin Star chef, my BBQ skills may not be as good as some featured in or reading these pages. But the experience of cooking with great produce has put me in good stead to adapt to the open flame and, more importantly, bring my knowledge as an international wine judge and drinks specialist to the fore, highlighting the best matches.
While many are very happy with an ale, lager or cider as those spare ribs are grilled, I will also be pursuing not only wines, but cocktails and other drinks to enhance your outdoor experience.
Let’s start with a whistle-stop tour of my favourite global BBQ experiences; the food cooked and the drinks served. The beach bars – chiringuitos – of southern Spain are a blaze of traditional open firepits in old fishing boats, with fresh salted fish grilling away on spears in the intense summer heat, washed down with an ice-cold San Miguel.
My extensive visits to the wine regions of Spain have encouraged me to experiment with octopus and the matching of this great seafood with spicy chorizo is superb.
Always look for the ‘cooking’ chorizo; the oil that oozes out of these spicy pork sausages enhances the octopus. This combination cries out for a dry fino sherry, served nicely chilled. And if you want to be super clever go for the salty manzanilla sherry, made around the port of Sanlúcar de Barrameda in Andalucia. Because of the cooler air from the sea estuary, the flor yeast is thicker and protects the sherry from getting too overtly sherry like, giving the drink a fresh vibrant, sea-fresh cleanliness.
Over in South Africa, the braai is a way of life and here we see the pinotage wine at its best – a hybrid of pinot noir and syrah, with the ‘tage’ of pinotage from the French village of Hermitage in the Rhone.
A juicy, cherry-led red wine with hints of tobacco and spices served slightly chilled, it stands up to the meaty treats that South Africans crave. In recent years South Africa has been leading the field when it comes to quality and value in New World wines and I have become a regular visitor to the Cape, not only making my own wine, but also promoting the beautiful clean fresh purity of its produce.
As a specialist in Australian wines, I certainly have been well fed by many ‘shrimps on the barbie’, although Australians tend to use the prawn term and not shrimp and there is a vast selection of wild prawns available including king prawns, tiger prawns, anana prawns, and endeavour prawns, and that’s before you start talking about yabbies. There is no better drink to go with these than a clean crisp Australian chardonnay. Always look for un-oaked chardonnay to go with your BBQ, giving you a cleaner fresher experience.
Stealing from the Japanese, table top BBQs can be quite fun and to enhance the experience a freshly made mojito is a great pairing, especially if there is some spiced heat involved in the dish. The simplest way to make a mojito is to get a large jug filled with ice, lots of fresh mint, two chopped limes, two tablespoons of brown sugar, white rum to taste and soda water to top up.
Returning to the UK to highlight our great produce, and there is no better way to celebrate and kick off the summer season than with English sparkling wine, served with grilled native lobsters. English and Welsh sparkling wines are getting a well-deserved global following for the quality now being produced. The French are so impressed, or concerned, that they, including top Champagne houses such as Taittinger and Pommery, have been buying up land in the south of England to make their own sparkling wines.
The fresh clean and citrus flavours of English sparkling wines offer a lovely way
to start off your day around the BBQ. However, English still wine is now evolving at a fast pace and Hattingley still rosé made from the pinot noir grape is as good as any Provence rosé that I have tasted.
Also look out for the bacchus grape, a great traditional English variety. It is floral on the nose, then has a minerality and citrus fruit complexion, fresh and vibrant. Growers offer great examples of bacchus include Flint Vineyard (Norfolk), Lyme Bay Winery (Devon), Chapel Down (Kent), Bolney (Sussex) and Balfour (Kent).
We are seeing the UK cider market growing, especially in the bespoke market and one of my favourites is Sandford Orchards in Devon, offering a superb cross-section of styles, value and alcohol level. It has an excellent mail order service and full descriptions on all its ciders online. Definitely worth a visit to the open days, when they may even get the BBQ going.
Hopefully this has given you some inspiration to evolve your BBQ drinking. In future issues I will look closely at matching drinks with bespoke dishes that I create.
I am currently using the OFYR to barbecue and find the intense heat around the body to be very good for chargrilling and searing, while the flavour from cooking on the main grill is outstanding, especially when cooking larger joints on the bone.
‘The Wine Chef bar none. Roger Jones has turned his passion for wine into a headline act, bringing great cooking and a deep knowledge of wines of South Africa, Australia, New Zealand and elsewhere to the table doing much for the profile of New World wine and food compatibility’ – Harpers’ Hot 100.
Roger Jones held a Michelin Star for 12 years prior to retiring from running his own restaurant – The Harrow at Little Bedwyn in Wiltshire – at the start of 2020, to concentrate on his journalism and wine judging.
Jones has worked for Decanter for over 12 years and is one of its key judges
for Australia at the annual Decanter World Wine Awards. He is a panel chair for the International Wine & Spirit Competition, ambassador for the Champagne & Sparkling Wine World Championships and one of the founder wine writers for The-Buyer.net.
Jones also runs his own consultancy, advising numerous drinks companies and bodies on marketing and food and wine matching.
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