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Column: Toasting to the unofficial beginning of summer

Wine recommendations for meat and spot prawn season
Aussie and Argentina wines
An Aussie white, a B.C. pink, and an Argentine red for the Victoria Day Long Weekend.

Welcome to what is often viewed as the start of summer. It’s the long weekend honouring Queen Victoria’s birthday. And that means outdoor dining on your patio, balcony, or picnic site as barbecue season gets underway!

To enhance your alfresco experience, here are three tasty wines. First up, a white wine that might change your mind about Rieslings, the 2019 Pewsey Vale Eden Valley ($21.99) from South Australia. That state is the major producer of Aussie wines.

This Riesling hails from the Eden Valley, which is next door to the famous Barossa Valley. The Eden Valley is higher in elevation compared to it’s iconic neighbour and is known for it’s cool-climate whites. Riesling has been popular in Australia since 1840 when German settlers immigrated to this region. Many Aussie Rieslings are done in a dry style like the Pewsey Vale.

It’s very pale in appearance but the aroma is anything but pale. There’s plenty of citrus and minerals plus a whiff of petrol, which is a desirable component in good Rieslings.

The Pewsey Vale’s flavour is full of delicious lime peel, ginger, quince, as well as green apple, nectarine, wet stone, and electrifying acidity with a long ripe finish. Australian wine guru, James Halliday rates this beauty a 93!

When it comes to choosing a wine for a barbecue, a useful rule of thumb is light/pale wines with light food, and heavier/darker wines with heavier and darker cooked food. So if you feel like shrimp on the barbie, a pale white wine like our Pewsey Vale Riesling would be a good choice with some grilled local fresh spot prawns with garlic butter.

Another timely choice for the upcoming long weekend is the 2020 Quails’ Gate Rosé ($18.99). Made from Gamay Noir, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier, the grapes received four hours of skin contact to produce the beautiful orange-pink colour.

Expect a multi-dimensional aroma with floral, citrus and berries. On the palate, there’s plenty to enjoy: lemon and orange, strawberry and red currant, along with watermelon and rosewater. Its tart acidity balances the ripe fruit that makes this rosé a perfect food wine.

If you were barbecuing, tuna or salmon (which are neither light nor dark foods but somewhere in between) they would pair nicely with this Quail’s Gate Rosé. Not having a barbecue? Then serve this refreshing pink wine with prosciutto and melon or a margherita pizza, the one with mozzarella, Parmigiano reggiano, and basil.

Finally, a budget priced Argentina red, the 2019 Santa Julia Malbec Reserva ($13.99; $3 off until June 5th). Produced in the high elevation Uco Valley of Mendoza, it’s a deep purple-red. There’s lots of black and red fruit in the forward nose with some wood and vanilla.

The Santa Julia has rich blackberries and plum flavours plus some chocolate. It’s soft and smooth with very approachable tannins and refreshing acidity that keep the fruit in balance.

Although it’s not a really complex red, the Santa Julia is perfect for informal outdoor dining. With a dark wine like this Malbec, a red meat dish with some char from barbecuing would be what it's called for. Think nicely charred rib-eye with a chimichurri sauce (green or red), or your favourite barbecued hamburger. Whether it's grilled beef, lamb, or a portobello mushroom topped with some melted manchego on top of the protein, this combo would really be a successful marriage with our Malbec.

Today’s wines are available at BCL stores as well as many private outlets. Enjoy your Victoria Day weekend and give a toast to good Queen Vicky!