The Best Italian Red Wines For Your Summer Barbecue


Char, smoke, meat, and loads of umami are the essence of any barbecue and Italian red wine is the finest pairing. The ultimate grilled meat experience is steak Florentine (bistecca alla fiorentina)— an amply sized bone-in steak cut that is grilled over hot coals—if you’re really doing it right you are working with Chianina, an indigenous Tuscan cattle breed. The Italians are masters of making wines (often very affordable) with a steak-friendly balance of tannin, fruit and acidity. Below is a taste-tested line-up of several Italian red wines that will elevate anything you put on the grill this summer. If you still need inspiration, scroll down for a grilled steak recipe crafted expressly for robust red wines from Grill 23’s dynamic duo of Executive Chef Peter Agostinelli and Master Sommelier Brahm Callahan, who is also beverage director for Himmel Hospitality Group.

Buglioni Amarone della Valpolicella, 2016: This wine pulls no punches; drink it to embrace the deep earthy smoked aspects of well executed barbecue. The palate of ripe, dense raisin-y fruit accented with tobacco and cassis is a nice foil for grilled proteins.

Monteverro Toscana, 2014: A world-class red blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and Petit Verdot. Aged 24 months in oak, it is a red wine that demands some air before drinking to better release the richly textured concentrated notes of blackberry, cassis and chocolate. The fine tannins and silky mouthfeel just prime the palate for steak Florentine.

MonteRosola, Crescendo, 2015: A deeply concentrated expression of Sangiovese from organically farmed vineyards in Tuscany’s Volterra region. It’s vibrant with serious structure and tannins and an elegant core of black cherry fruit. The winery suggests pairing this with grilled Tuscan sausages with fennel or slow-cooked braised meats.

Planeta Cerasuolo di Vittoria, 2018:  Sicily continues to dazzle wine lovers with their minerally, exciting wines and this one is another fine option. Ripe red berry flavors with a distinct fig-balsamic note are balanced nicely with spice and structure in this Sicilian red, made from the island’s native varietals, Nero d’Avola and Frappato. It drinks nicely with pizza and chili but is a sure winner with grilled meats.

Querciabella Chianti Classico, 2016: Made from entirely organic vineyards treated with biodynamic practices, the flavor profile is focused and precise. Tightly wrought tannins with a richly textured core of black cherry fruit nicely accent the umami notes in grilled proteins. 100% organic Sangiovese.

Sassetti Pertimali Montecucco Rosso La Querciolina, 2016: A family with four generations of winemaking certainly has the talent to craft balanced, evocative wines and this one, made 100% Sangiovese Grosso della Maremma is no exception. It is full-bodied, with medium tannins, lovely structure and dense notes of black cherry fruit laced with sweet spices.

Sella & Mosca Cannonau di Sardegna Riserva, Sardinia, 2017: Aged in oak and made from the Cannonau grape (which is the local Sardinian name for Grenache), this is a richly fruited wine with velvety layers of sweet spice. There is some debate as to whether or not the varietal Cannonau actually originated on Sardinia—it was originally thought to be an import. Regardless, this expression is bolder than most Grenache wines you find elsewhere, lending it the perfect flavor profile for grilled meats. And, for $15 a bottle you can afford to drink it all summer.

Villa Matilde Rocca dei Leoni Aglianico, 2016: Italy’s Campania region gets far less buzz than its northern counterparts such as Tuscany and Piemonte, which can often mean wine drinkers will find better values. This one is dense, inky and juicy, made with 100% Aglianico grown in the region’s volcanic hilly soils. About $16 average price on WineSearcher.

Grilled Prime Sirloin with Stone Fruit Agrodolce & Grilled Red Onion Arugula Salad,(from Boston’s Grill 23) Serves 4

For the steaks

  1. 4 each 12-16 ounce prime New York sirloins
  2. As needed kosher salt

1. Generously season steaks with a dusting of kosher salt on both sides. It should look like a light dusting of snow. Then let the steaks come up to room temperature

2. On a very hot grill cook the steaks on each side until they are a caramel brown color. Move the steaks off of the flame and continue to grill indirectly. (next too not over the fire)

3. When they steaks are 120 degrees internal temperature remove from the grill and rest for 8-10 minutes.

4. Slice the steaks and serve alongside salad and stone fruits

For the salad

  1. 2 each medium red onions, ¼’d root end intact
  2. 4 cups baby arugula
  3. 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  4. 4 tablespoons olive oil
  5. As needed salt & pepper

Coat the onions in 1 tablespoon of olive oil and grill over medium heat until tender. Medium dice the onions once they are cool enough to handle and toss with balsamic vinegar and remaining olive oil. When ready to serve fold in arugula and check seasoning.

For the stone fruit agrodolce (for best results make one day ahead)

  1. 4 cups coarsely chopped stone fruits such as apricots, plums, peaches and cherries
  2. 2 tablespoons honey
  3. 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
  4. 1 each cinnamon stick
  5. 1 each star anise
  6. 4 each allspice berries
  7. 1 each large strip lemon zest
  8. ½ cup balsamic vinegar
  9. As needed salt and pepper

Combine all ingredients in non-reactive pan and cook over medium low flame until fruit breaks down and mixture is thick. Let cool overnight in the refrigerator. Before serving remove aromatics and let come up to room temperature



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