Vin Connections (May 2004)


BBQ. For most, the phrase conjures up images of warm summer nights, dinner with pals and a bottle (or two) of great vino. Of course, we’ve also been known to huddle over the grill in the mid-January rain for that perfect burger. But since summer’s almost here, we’re picking them now, so you, like us, can pick ‘em early and often…

In the English language, it turns out that the word ‘barbecue’ has at least four different meanings:

  • Something you cook on (“I just got a 780 cubic inch gas barbecue with a rotisserie”)
  • How you cook (“Thanks, but I’d rather barbecue my brisket”)
  • What you’ve cooked (“I like my barbecue with white wine and corn”)
  • Where you’re going (“I’m going to a barbecue at Billie’s house”)

So get ready… with just one word, you’re getting four meanings, four categories of great wine and 20 perfect wine picks to go with it. In this issue we’ve brought together a group of wines that we think will become your favorites too, as you enjoy a grilled backyard feast with friends and family or relax at the beach, the rooftop, or wherever else your summer takes you.

While we’ve included some predictable favorites like luscious, full-bodied Shiraz and fruity Rieslings, the surge in popularity of Chardonnay-alternatives Viognier and Pinot Grigio mirrors their undeniable qualities – and their deserved prominence in our summer picks. So no matter what you choose to grill or what you decide drink with them, enjoy them all, along with the sultry days and nights that surround you.

  • This Month’s Reader Question:
    “What are the “perfect” wines for an early summer BBQ?”
  • This Month’s Wine Pick: 20 Wines, Each One Perfect for an Early (or Mid, or Late…) Summer BBQ.
    California Viognier: A rich full-bodied white comes into its own.
    Perfect for grilling: Buy by-the-Case Shiraz!
    Crisp, clean and vibrant: Pinot Grigio is summer defined!
    Bargain Whites, $10 and under: Fumé Blanc and fruity Rieslings
  • This Month’s Quote:
    A Classic, Sunny Day Quote…and Our Interpretation


Grilling Season is Almost Here…

“BBQ Season is just about on us, and we entertain by the grill all summer long. Whatever you can think of, we grill it. Can you give me some ideas for stocking my cellar in advance (actually, the closet in the back bedroom, but hey…) to cover all my bases?”

—Kevin Fie, Beaufort, South Carolina

You’ve given yourself lots of latitude with this question, Kevin… after all, when it comes to wine choices (whether BBQ, Seafood, Jambalaya or anything else) there’s no such thing as a “rule” for pairing food and wine. If it tastes great, I say drink up. After all, enjoying wine is all about what you – and your friends – like. That said, there are some generalities that might help as you choose the perfect wines for your grill-side gatherings.

In general, I tend to stay away from big, tannic reds (unless we’re bbq’ing a whole lamb on a spit) or bold, oaky chardonnays during the hot months. As the summer heats up, there’s no better way to cool down than with a refreshingly crisp glass of wine.

With the exception of Shiraz (also known as Syrah, same grape) – my favorite these days for barbecued anything – my top summer wine choices are light, fruity and refreshing. Perfect to enjoy as you soak up the sun after lunch, or relax on a balmy evening by the lake.

Overall, I think that summer is time for wines that are a bit lighter. For whites, I enjoy Fumé and Sauvignon Blanc, Rieslings, Viognier, Gewurztraminer and my (current) personal summer favorite, Pinot Grigio/Pinot Gris. If red better suits your taste or your meal, look for Chianti, Beaujolais, Rosé, Pinot Noir, and some lighter Zinfandels.

While subscribers can find hundreds of great summer wines at, we’ve highlighted 20 below that you’ll be sure to enjoy the next time you sit down for a meal hot off the ‘cue….

[Do you have a wine-related question you’d like to ask? If so, contact us and you may see it answered in an upcoming issue!]


20 Under $15: Proof that great wine doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg!

Worth-It Whites: Higher grades, lower prices

2000 Semillon, Peter Lehmann “Barossa Valley”
South Australia

$10, Grade A
2002 Alvarinho, Quinta da Pedra
Vinho Verde, Portugal
IE: A$14, Grade A
2002 Semillon-Chardonnay, Orlando – “Jacob’s Creek”
South Eastern Australia
IE; A-$8, Grade A-
2002 Vouvray, Benoit Gautier
Loire, France
IE; A-$12, Grade A-
2001 Pinot Blanc, Pierre Sparr “Réserve”
Alsace, France
IE; A-$13, Grade A-

Worth-It Que Syrah, Syrah: A Shiraz by any other name…Whites: Higher grades, lower prices

2000 Syrah/Shiraz, Fusee
California, USA

$5, Grade A-
2002 Syrah/Shiraz, Delicato
California, USA
IE: A$6, Grade A-
2000 Syrah/Shiraz, Hardys “Bankside”
South Australia
IE: B+$13, Grade B+
2001 Syrah/Shiraz, Jacob’s Creek “Reserve”
South Australia
IE: B+$13, Grade B+
2000 Syrah/Shiraz, Consilience “Santa Barbara County”
California, USA
IE: B+$14, Grade B+

Passport Reds: Let your cellar do the globe trotting

2002 Malbec, Bodgea Cantena Zapata “Alamos”

$11, Grade A-
2001 Sangiovese Castello di Selvole
Tuscany, Italy
IE: A$12, Grade A-
2002 Malbec/Tempranillo, Santa Sofia “Urban Oak”
Uco Valley, Argentina
IE: B+$9, Grade B+
2002 Cabernet Sauvignon/Shiraz, Buckeley’s
IE: B+$10, Grade B+
2002 Gamay Georges Duboeuf “Julienas”
Beaujolais, France
IE: B+$12, Grade B+

Worth-It Whites: Higher grades, lower prices

2000 Cabernet Sauvignon, Powers
IE; A, A-

$10, Grade A
2001 Cabernet Sauvignon, Twenty Bench “Napa Valley”
Napa Valley, California, USA
IE; A$15, Grade A
2000 Cabernet Sauvignon, Ch. Ste. Michelle “Columbia Valley”
Columbia Valley, Washington, USA
IE; B+, A-$15, Grade A-
2000 Cabernet Sauvignon, Wynns Coonawarra “Estate, Coonawarra”
South Australia
IE; A, B+$15, Grade A-
2002 Cabernet Sauvignon, Mont Gras “Reserva, Colchagua Valley, Rapel Valley”
Central Valley, Chile
IE; B+$10, Grade B+

Wine Quote

A Classic Quote… and Our Take On It…

A meal without wine is like a day without sunshine.Anthelme Brillat Savarin
Renowned French Food Critic, Author and Gourmether, the Wine PocketList

Any day with sunshine calls for a good meal and great wine…Michael Hinshaw
Publisher, the Wine PocketList


Understanding our System

Grade: [A-]
Our grades represent a composite score developed using our proprietary system to blend wine quality and scoring information.

Vintage: 1999
This describes both the year of the actual grape harvest as well as the year the wine was made.

Price: $12
The prices quoted in the WPL are the “suggested retail prices” quoted by the wineries and the distributors. Though these are close to what you’d pay at the winery, you’ll often find discounts of 20% and more off these prices at retail.

Individual Evaluations: IE: A, A-, B+
This represents the number of individual reviews and ratings on which the composite grade is based, primarily representing individual reviews in top wine periodicals converted to our scale, and ratings by our tasting panel.

Wine PocketList Exclusive Categories: WPL: BBC, W, S, B
These are four exclusive WPL categories, and many wines rated by the PocketList will fall into one of these special designations.

[W] Widely Available:
These wines typically have bottling of 20,000 cases or more, making them widely available in most regions of the U.S.

[BBC] Top Buy-by-the-Case:
Based on multiple, outstanding reviews and a solid history, these are wines you can purchase by the case to grow your cellar with confidence today, and into the future!

[B] Bargain Wines:
Top-rated wines for $10 or less. Most of these can go head to head with a typical $30 bottle sporting a fancy label . . . and beat it hands down.

[S] Splurge Wines:
For most of us, spending more than $20 on a bottle of wine isn’t something we do lightly. These are wines that, while more expensive, are well worth the price.

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