Grilling, wine pairing take summer’s center stage

By Shane Sharp

Sea Pines Country Club Executive Chef Brian Coseo is a longtime grill master. Only recently, though, has he become a master of grilled and smoked curbside takeout. In light of the “new normal,” the club rolled out Wednesday and Friday night barbecue specials for members needing a break from cooking at home.

“It’s allowed me to get back to caveman cooking, simple strong ingredients,” Coseo says. “And there’s nothing better than pulling a perfectly grilled or smoked piece of meat off the cooker.”

A recent menu included baby-back ribs, pulled pork and spice-rubbed chicken. And Coseo and Food and Beverage Manager Mike Lozan have no fear of conquering the Texas treasure, otherwise known as brisket, or (gasp) serving a perfectly prepared cedar-plank grilled salmon fillet.

“We want to cover the basics but also keep it interesting and provide healthy alternatives,” Coseo says.

In fact, the more variety coming off the grill allows for more creativity and flexibility with recommended wine pairings.

That’s right – wine and barbeque.

Lozan says vino now rivals beer as the summer grilling beverage of choice. And this doesn’t mean drinking a dry, dusty Cab in the dead heat of summer.

“Grilling is one of the most intensive forms of cooking, performed under high heat, outside in hot temperatures with searing surfaces,” Lozan says. “There are so many alternatives to the tannin-forward wines we all typically drink when the weather is cooler.”

Pairing like a pro

Photo by Sea Pines Country Club

Pairing doesn’t have to be as simple as white meat, white wine, red meat, red wine. Honing in on a few food characteristics and a couple of tricks of the trade will have you pairing like a pro.

The “char” or exterior of the protein is a key consideration. It provides the first flavor and texture that hits the tongue. Then there’s the weight and texture of the food itself. Finally, don’t forget the impact of basting, mopping or finishing sauce.

The sheer number and variability of these tasty accoutrements are mind-blowing and range from spicy Cajun rubs and piquant chimichurri sauce to the endless array of barbeque sauce styles.

“Chicken is the perfect example,” Sea Pines Country Club executive chef Brian Coseo says. “It is a blank slate and the sauce or rub you use can be the difference between pairing it with a sweet white or semi-bold red.”

Food and flavor profiles notwithstanding, let’s face it: summer in the Lowcountry is hide-the-dog hot. With summer highs in the high 80s and 90s, it’s little wonder that “cole” beer has historically dominated Lowcountry summer cookouts.

“If you’re eating a steak or burger, it’s natural to pine for a big chewy Cab,” Lozan says. “But that’s the last thing you or your guests will want if it’s 90 degrees. But there are a few tricks you can use to offset the heat and still drink the wine you want.”

Wines have optimal serving temperatures, Lozan says, but any varietal can be chilled to make it more drinkable in the summer. Just don’t go as cold on reds as you would on whites, he warns.

And if you just have to have that Cab, try a lower-alcohol version like a Bordeaux Superior from France or a selection from Coombsville in the southern part of Napa Valley.

For slightly drier but still summer-appropriate options, Lozan says look to Europe for Sangiovese from Italy or Tempranillo from Spain. These “table” wines are standard at outdoor dining venues in warm Iberian Peninsula countries throughout the summer.

“Lower alcohol and higher acidity often point in the direction of Europe,” Lozan says. “Don’t be afraid to try new wines in the summer.”

No rules, just right

Photo by Montage Palmetto Bluff

While it’s mainly meat being pulled off the smoker at Sea Pines Country Club, Coseo encourages members to experiment with grilling fish, shellfish, vegetables and even fruit and deserts. An entire meal done on the grill makes for a festive atmosphere and easy clean-up.

“With fish, you want something firm like swordfish, salmon or red snapper,” Coseo says. “You can even put clams on the half shell on the grill and they pop right open when they’re done.”

Or salad for that matter.

Nathan Beriau, executive chef at the Montage Palmetto Bluff, has created a grilled version of Panzanella, a Tuscan chopped salad made from stale bread, tomatoes and onions. He adds mushrooms, asparagus and zucchini accented with basil, pepper and garlic.

“It goes incredibly well with a dry southern French Rose from the Provence region,” Beriau says. “One we currently have on our wine list that I am especially partial to is Miraval Cotes de Provence Rose.”

Pairing wine with meats, veggies, fruits, salads and desserts coming off the grill can get complicated. When in doubt, Lozan has a simple rule of thumb.

“Drink what you like,” he says. “There is no point in finding that perfect pairing if you do not enjoy that style of wine.”

Cheers to that! LL

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