With Memorial Day and July 4 already in the rear view mirror, the summer grilling season is in full swing. If you haven’t attended a summertime outdoor cookout or hosted one or two yourself, you’ll probably be heading to one soon. And that invariably leads to the perennial question: What wine to serve to your guests? And of course, there is the corollary inquiry: What wine to bring as a gift to share at a summer bbq or cookout?
As with all models for pairing the right wines with the right food and even more importantly with the right mood, we look to the people who make the wines to discover how they pair them.
In the hills of Proseccoland during the summer months, it’s time for the sagre, as they say in Italian. A sagra (plural: sagre) is one of their words for an outdoor food or “food product” festival. Sometimes it’s an individual dish that gets celebrated, like polenta or a type of cheese. Sometimes, it’s just an occasion to make favorite foods, like grilled ribs served with beans that have been slow-cooked with ham (one of our personal favorites). Sometimes, it’s a religious occasion. Or sometimes, it’s just an excuse to get together and have fun.
In Veneto in northeastern Italy where Prosecco is grown and produced, Prosecco is nearly always among the wines served. Why? It’s refreshing (something we crave during the summer heat). It’s low in alcohol (something important when we tend to drink more). It’s a wine for everyone (do you know anyone who will turn down a glass of Prosecco on a hot summer evening?).
But perhaps most importantly, they serve Prosecco because it matches the mood of celebration and conviviality.
Traditionally, we think of Prosecco as the ideal pairing for the tide of seafood dishes that Venice is so famous for. And nothing could be more spot on: Fried fish, shellfish in any form, salty cuttlefish ink risotto… The balance of savory and fresh fruit flavors in Prosecco is ideal with the fruits of the sea.
But for those who haven’t traveled across Veneto, it might come as a surprise that the veneti (the name of those who live in the region, including but not limited to the Venetians) pair the wines with nearly everything they serve. Grilled sausages? Check. Hamburgers? Check. Polenta and spare ribs? CHECK!
And that’s not just because Prosecco is arguably one of the world’s most food-friendly, “gastronomic” wines (as the cool kids call it now). It is, by the way. But it’s also because there is no wine in the world that better captures the brio and joy of hanging out in summer with people and foods you love.
So the next time you host or head to a summer grill, be sure to bring a bottle of Prosecco!