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Pair your outdoor eats with summer sips

Summertime food and wine pairings for outdoor entertaining or lazy days around the backyard barbecue.
What to have with that plank salmon, barbecue burger or roast chicken? The choices are many. Photo: Alison Phillips

Whether a picnic in the park, grilling on the barbecue or dining al fresco on a roof top patio, a true joy of summer is dining on fabulous seasonal foods in the great outdoors. Fresh vegetables, salads and grilled veggies; roast chicken and barbecue burgers, ribs, steak and plank salmon--all this bounty can be paired with wines.

But what to pick up? A huge range of beverages are available in Alberta, and local, boutique-style liquor stores are more likely to carry unique and different products in your quest to find something new. Here's a list of wine varieties to pair with popular summer fare:

Sparkling Wine--Prosecco is affordable and versatile. Bubbles get a party started with fancy cheeses or plain old potato chips.

Serving burgers? Add caramelized onions, real cheddar and serve a big juicy Napa Cabernet Sauvignon from California. The concentration of proteins in the burger and cheese with the condiments will complement a big red wine.

Salads are challenging when pairing with wine as dressings can compete. Try acidic style wines like Sauvignon Blancs, Pinot Gris or one of my favourites, Alberino from Spain or Portugal. If there’s fruit in your salad (strawberries or blueberries), Rose wines are an excellent choice.

Roast chicken cooked on the grill with fresh herbs, a creamy potato salad and veggies are delicious with Chardonnay. Oaked or unoaked, the creaminess of this wine works well.

Barbecue pork ribs with sticky, tangy sauce is awesome with a California Zinfandel or a crisp German Riesling.

And a big juicy steak? This concentrated protein requires a Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec or a delicious Rhone style blend of Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre, one of my favourites.

Vegetarian? Grilled vegetables, portobello mushrooms, plank salmon or barbecue halibut with a fruit salsa pair beautifully with a leaner, fragrant red wine like Pinot Noir. Choose from New Zealand, the Okanagan, California, Oregon or a traditional Burgundy from France. You’ll enjoy strawberry and cherry notes right through to black plum and earthier, mushroom-y qualities. Ask a qualified sales consultant to assist you.

For a more casual or mid-afternoon outdoor gathering, serve refreshing coolers. Not as sweet or high in calories or alcohol as their predecessors many years ago, coolers come in a range of fruit flavours. White Claw Mango is a big seller with its tangy tropical taste, Smirnoff Ice Pink Lemonade is a classic, Black Fly Peach offers a lower sugar and calorie content, and Snapple Peach cooler is a juicy choice. These portable beverages are perfect for the beach, golf course or backyard. Drink straight from the can or pour into a tumbler full of ice for the perfect chill.

Summer is short, so enjoy as much time as you can outside. In northern Alberta we’re blessed with longer summer nights than our southern friends so relax, start the grill and pour yourself a glass of wine. You deserve it!

NOTE: Sparkling, white and Rose wines need to be served well chilled. Place on ice with cold water in an ice bucket for at least 20 minutes before serving (or keep in the fridge).

Red wines tend to be served too warm. Chill them down for 10 minutes before serving and you’ll enjoy the nuanced flavours as the wine warms up in your glass.

Alison Phillips is co-owner of Aligra Wine & Spirits in West Edmonton Mall.