Pop prosecco for backyard grilling sessions

05/21/2014 11:15 AM

05/21/2014 11:16 AM

Men, for good or ill, are twice as likely as women to do the family’s outdoor grilling — a stat that hasn’t changed in decades, according to a national poll by market-research group NPD.

I asked a cookbook-author friend why, and he laughed. “It doesn’t occur to women that it’s fun to stand downwind from a smoky fire.”

On the other hand, a poll for the Wine Institute said women buy 57 percent of the wine consumed in the country.

It gives new urgency to the plea, “Can’t we all just get along?” Can’t we put our heads together and decide what to grill this summer and what to drink with it? I have some suggestions:

First, it’s always nice to hand a glass of something light and tasty and cool to guests as they arrive in your back yard. A good choice is that trendy Italian sparkling wine called prosecco.

Now, most experts will tell you sparkling wines should be served at 40 to 50 degrees — even a bit warmer for top Champagnes. And I agree. But this is a backyard grilling bash, not a 14-course repast by the Chaine des Rotisseurs.

Prosecco is less highfalutin than Champagne, and cheaper. So my advice is to glance around furtively and, when nobody’s watching, pop a few bottles of prosecco in the ice chest — yes, right there beside the beer.

On to the meal. Ask yourself: What’s the most prominent flavor you encounter at every grill-out, no matter if you’re doing steaks, burgers, Caesar salad (yes, you can grill the lettuce), garlic bread, zucchini or even, for the more daring, peaches?

It’s the grill marks, those lovely crosshatches of char that create the explosion of flavor that says you’re cooking with fire.

Those compelling black marks on veggies provide a bitterness that can be complemented with a zingy, high-acid sauvignon blanc or contrasted with a fat, buttery California chardonnay.

On a steak, that cowboy-style branding creates a pungency that cries out for a powerful cabernet sauvignon to match or a sweet and fruity zinfandel or shiraz for contrast.

The other painful pleasure of the backyard grill is, of course, spice. Big shrimp, laced with enough hot sauce and cayenne pepper to make your eyes water. Chicken wings soaked in Buffalo sauce. Lip-lacerating jalapeño poppers stuffed with soothing cream cheese.

For these, I grudgingly admit, you sometimes get beyond the reach of wine. You need beer straight out of that cooler, at 32.1 degrees. Yes, from the cans sitting there beside the bottles of prosecco.

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