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Ask a Somm: What Kind of Wines Pair With Barbecue?

Welcome to Ask a Somm, a column in which experts from across the country answer questions about wine. Wondering about a bottle? Drop us a line.

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E.P. + L.P. is Los Angeles' newest eatery to see and be seen, plating up a modern Southeast Asian menu by recent Australian import Louis Tikaram. Meanwhile, bartending vet Alex Straus heads up cocktails and GM/sommelier Kamden Watson curates the restaurant and lounge's selection of terroir driven, Asian food-friendly wines. As July Fourth approaches, Watson considers the challenge of pairing wines with typical barbecue foods.

Q: Can you recommend some summer barbecue-friendly wines that I could serve over July 4th? A mix of red and white styles that you think would work well with meat and seasonal veggies?

Watson: Fourth of July is when I like to drink wines that are fun, uncomplicated and thirst quenching. Here are my go-to choices for the holiday:

Fiano di Avellino from Campania, Italy. The wine is herbaceous, smoky and medium bodied. It’s grown in sandy volcanic soil that gives a beautiful mineral driven quality with playful fruit flavors. Avellino is a town synonymous with the grape varietal and is a stone’s throw from Mt. Vesuvius. What better barbecue wine then something grown at the base of a volcano! Feudi di San Gregorio Fiano will cost you roughly $18 and is perfect to beat the heat.

Fourth of July is when I like to drink wines that are fun, uncomplicated and thirst quenching.

Garnatxa and Macabeo are also some fun favorites for grilled vegetables kissed with smoke and hints of spice. Montsant and Priorat, Spain are legends for making these two white varietals. Montsant always gives a great value and you can find steals made with beautiful grapes at a third of the cost of the well-known, smaller area of Priorat. A small husband and wife team, Rene Barbier and Sara Perez, make an amazing wine, that is organic, called Venus La Universal, "Dido." It’s fleshy and delicious, with a marzipan and white pepper finish that goes great with barbecue shrimp or chicken, marinated in tequila, jalapeño and cilantro. This Spanish white will set you back $21.

Don’t forget about Rosé though!!!! I feel like the wines from Bandol and California's Central Coast are awesome complements to the savory tones of barbecue!

Domaine Tempier Rosé is always a hit and has been a long established stellar producer of Bandol wines. With their reds at a hefty price point and needing tons of time to settle their tannins, the Rosé is a steal even at $39 a bottle. Think of this as your splurge for the afternoon.

A Tribute to Grace Rosé comes from a small producer that is just north of LA metropolitan, found in the Santa Barbara Hills, about two hrs from the city. Focusing on Rhône varietals, this 100 percent Grenache Rosé is beautiful. Touched with floral notes and light citrus undertones, it’s a patio pounder at $22

Grilled meats tend to bring out the savage in all of us though, so let’s talk animalistic wines! If your grunting right now, you are in the right mind frame. Two grape varietals, Bobal and Brunello di Montalcino. The first varietal is indigenous to the area of Manchuela, Spain. Juan Antonio Ponce has crushed this varietal, pun intended, with a bio-dynamic cultivation and minimal interventionist approach. If fennel, coffee and leather had a baby, you would get "Pino" ($35), the name of his Bobal wine from 30-year-old vines. 

Last but not least, Brunello di Montalcino. I know, you’re probably thinking that this is a baller barbecue, but some smaller producers have made Brunello more approachable and affordable. This kingly wine can now be found around $50 retail. The grape is known for its leather, violets and dark cherries. If you're throwing on a leg of lamb or a ribeye, you will find happiness in the Tuscan hills. Bonacchi Molino del Piano 2009 ($49) is a great value and if for some reason you don’t crack it open for the grill-a-thon, you can cellar it for a later date.

E.P. & L.P.

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