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Grillin' 'n' Chillin'

Wine complements those backyard burgers

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In the depths of the backyard, you hear beer worshippers' emphatic cries that brew is the quintessential beverage for grilled food. But wine clearly kicks beer's butt with food, so what's up with that? People mechanically reach for beer when lighting up the charcoal, especially when they're glazing the meat with spicy, tomato-based sauces, but it's high time to throw wine a bone. Ok, ok... it's a tough argument, but wine really complements food because of its tannins and acidity. Beer, especially heavier ales and stouts, masks taste by coating the tongue with carbonation and wheat-y sensations that don't meld with the flavor of food. Food respects wine. Even brew-loving Germans sip wine with their meals, saving the heavier, carbonate-laden beverage for brau haus visits. Italians consume wine with every meal, as do the French and Swiss. And although Americans tend to do it Our Way, we might learn some things from cultures that have been drinking us under the table for thousands of years.

When grilling chicken, you'll want to start with something not too heavy, like a slightly chilled Australian Shiraz that won't overwhelm the delicacy of the meat. If you slather a fruit-based glaze on your bird, even better, since fruit loves fruit. Anything spicy begs for a peppery wine like Syrah or Zinfandel to stand up to the sometimes-overwhelming heat. Cheeseburgers, steaks and other protein-rich dishes help to smooth out the rough edges of tannic wines like Cabernet or Syrah. And grilled salmon or shrimp's oiliness can be counterbalanced with a cool, crisp white wine. For some freaky, wine geek fun, slosh down smoky-sweet ribs with a highly acidic Pinot Grigio.

Think outside the keg. Just because Big Beer has brainwashed all of us, including me, into thinking beer is the only accompaniment to grilled meat, doesn't mean we have to agree. Explore a little and you just might find burger heaven. Here's a mishmash to send you on your way.

Recommended Wines2001 Paringa Shiraz Light-hearted, friendly and smooth talking Aussie Shiraz. Like biting into a fresh black cherry dipped in pepper. For the price, you can bathe in this stuff and be happy. $11 1/2

B.R. Cohn 1998 Olive Hill Cabernet Sauvignon A Merlot in a Cab's sexy body. Sultry, smooth tannins with vivid cranberry and dark berry fruit on the nose and tongue. Yum and worth the bucks. 1/2 $30

2000 Justin Syrah Soft and velvety on the tongue, it delivers a sultry, smoky finish. The black cherry soothes a tired body after a long workweek. $26

2001 Pedroncelli Zinfandel Rose This is my new favorite ros wine. A far cry from its sweet white Zin cousin, this-dry-as-a-bone, pink wine sports strawberry like you can't believe. Grilled chicken begs for this inexpensive wine. $10 1/2

Clos du Bois 2000 Calcaire Chardonnay Slightly buttery, citrusy and spritzy, this may sound like a martini but it's actually a wonderful wine. Smooth and easy drinkin'. $22

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Entry Level Wine Classes Sensory Evaluation: tongue anatomy, components, faults, aroma vs bouquet. In the Westye Group kitchen. Wed., May 21, 10 a.m. $30. The Design Center, 127 W. Worthington Ave # 104. 704-344-8027.


Entry Level Wine Classes The Science of wine making: overall process, style, grape varieties, aging. Tue., May 27, 6:30-8 p.m. $30. Mint Museum of Craft & Design, 220 N. Tryon St. 704-344-8027.


Entry Level Wine Classes The Science of wine making: overall process, style, grape varieties, aging. Westye Group Kitchen. Wed., May 28, 10-11:30 a.m. $30. The Design Center, 127 W. Worthington Ave # 104. 704-344-8027.


Four for Friday Four premium wines are featured in four ways: 2 oz. sample, 5 oz. glass, by the bottle or in a flight. Fridays. $20. Reid's Fine Foods, 7th Street Station. 704-377-1312.


Wednesday Night Flights Very informal. Three wines tasted each week. Wednesdays, 5:30-7:30 p.m. $10. Reid's Fine Foods, 7th Street Station. 704-377-1312.


Wine & Food Tastings Third Wednesday of every month, 5:30-8 p.m. Something Classic at the Villa, 715 Providence Rd. 704-347-3666.


Wine Tasting Featuring wines and cheeses from Shelton Vineyards. Wed., May 21, 6:30 p.m. $5. Sante, 165 N. Trade St., Matthews. 704-845-1899.


Wine Tasting The Wines of Germany and Austria. Call for reservations. Wed., May 21, 7 p.m. $10. The Wine Shop, Park Square Shopping Center, 2442 Park Rd. 704-377-5373.


Wine Tasting Fine Wines and fine cuisine. Thu., May 22, 5:30-7:30 p.m. La Bibliotheque. 704-365-5000.


Wine Tasting Join Latorre's for an Indigenous Latin Varietals wine tasting. Wines from Chile, Spain, Argentina and Portugal will be featured at this event. Thu., May 22, 6 p.m. $10. Latorre's, Latin American Cuisine, 118 W. 5th St. 704-377-4448.


Wine Tastings Wednesdays, 6-8 p.m. $10. Barone's Wine Room, Birkdale Village, Huntersville. 704-987-0011.


Wine Tastings Six wines tasted, which follow a monthly theme. Last Tuesday of every month, 5:30-7:30 p.m. $15 per person includes light hors d'oeuvres. Nectar, 1730-A E. Woodlawn Rd. 704-519-4174.


Wines of the Old World An overview and tasting wines of Italy, Spain, France and Germany. Find out what makes each country's wines unique. Wed., May 21, 7-8:30 p.m. $20. Southern Spirits, Hwy 521. 803-548-8888.

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