Last week’s column on grill-friendly red wines mentioned only a slim selection of good choices for your summer barbecuing, so this week, I’ll continue the discussion and flesh out my go-to list.

Last week’s wines were from France and Italy, countries with too much state-mandated paid vacation time and/or winkingly accepted political corruption for steak-blackening Americans to consider knowledgeable about grilling. Red wines from Europe, goes the prejudice, would rather sip tea and contemplate meaning, while wines from our hemisphere just wanna dance. This is why so many wine buyers are drawn to New World wines, despite the patronizing efforts of effete jerks like me trying to fight it.

I’ll temporarily relent, although I still believe lighter wines emphasizing multifaceted nuance over bloodthirsty shock-n-awe are often the more appropriate choices for barbecued meals as you actually live them. Still, don’t we all wanna dance, at least sometimes? Don’t some meals and moments call for something more … fun?

Yes. So here are a few fun red wines ideal for grilled food. Not dumb, not one-dimensional wines; just mouth watering and playful. California and Chile are invited, although I throw in a couple of European wines that – without sacrificing any authenticity or strength of character – have dance moves of their own.

Echeverria Cabernet Sauvignon 2009, Curico Valley, Chile, $11 (Devenish): An earlier vintage of this was the first wine to show me how misinformed I was about Chile. I’d tasted a bunch of inexpensive Chilean reds and recoiled at the muddiness of them, the lack of distinction between one thing and the other. Echeverria is very clear: elements are arranged sensibly. I say that not seeking to detract anything from its amazing density, its chewy, smoky qualities or its hardy, chaps-wearing masculinity. This is a big wine, but it’s got a big heart, not just big other things. A great joy when the steak is fresh from the coals.

Zin 91 Old Vine Zinfandel 2009, California, $12 (Central): Part of something being fun is when it just does not cost too much, and while there are many more complicated, more awe-inspiring Zinfandels out there, I don’t know of any that offer so much for so little. The grapes (15 percent of which are Petite Sirah) come from all over California, but there’s a clarity here that’s rare at such a price; most cheap Zin is just too all over the place.

The profile is classic: ripe black cherries and raspberries at first, then cinnamon and black pepper and new, sun-baked cedar. The Achilles’ heel of Zin is its out-of-whack high alcohol, but this is a more-than-respectable 14 percent, which is reflected in a softness, a silkiness, that will befriend your burger rather than attack it.

Masserie Pisari Primitivo 2009, Salento Rosso (Puglia), Italy, $14 (SoPo): Primitivo is genetically identical to Zinfandel, although most Primitivos I’ve had are less exuberant than Zin, and this is no exception. The organic-grape Pisari is forthright and ebullient, but with an elegance this often too-rustic southern Italian grape lacks. It’s as if that Zinny Cali kid, sun-soaked and rockin’, has donned a soft blazer for the evening. Sure, there’s red fruit to be had, but it’s cooked down with herbs, and is condensed and nut-flecked. Dry-rubbed spare ribs would sing with this wine.

Preisinger Basic 2009, Burgenland, Austria, $17 (SoPo): OK, how to convince you to spring $17 for an obscure blend of Zweigelt, St. Laurent, Blaufrankisch and Merlot? Here goes: Claus Preisinger is a young, exciting winemaker who farms 100 percent biodynamically, hand harvests his organic grapes, and vinifies naturally in the lowest-tech manner possible. This wine is achingly pure, seamlessly integrated, and perfect for grilled salmon and vegetables or pork. Blackberries and black licorice on the finish mate to the black of the grill, the perfectly assimilated tannins surround gorgeously sparkly minerality — the whole thing is just butt-kicking and beautiful all at once. Summary: 98 Points! Eleven stars! PLEASE DRINK THIS WINE.


Joe Appel works at Rosemont Market. His blog,, continues the conversation, and he can be reached at: [email protected]


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