Sparkling reds, a Scientific Experiment and a barbecue

Bleasdale Langhorne Creek Sparkling Shiraz sparkling reds

I’VE SPENT ages wondering how to start off some words about sparkling reds which, it transpires, people love or hate. Just now, just this minute, I mentioned it to someone and they said, ‘Oh, just like Marmite’. So here we are. Some words about Marmite, aka sparkling red wines.

As this week has been National Barbecue Week it seemed as good a time as any to write about sparkling reds with a barbie, as, in Oz, that’s the way to go.

You’ve probably seen mass-produced sparkling reds in supermarkets. They’ve never done much for me, so I set the stall out to seek some off the beaten track. We threw up the barbie, held up brollies in the rain, gathered chops and chicken and sausages and sauces, especially one with chilli, and began a Scientific Experiment.

woolundry road sparkling shiraz review
Woolundry Road

Woolundry Road Sparkling Shiraz NV (£11.99, www.virginwines.co.uk) is a hug of blackcurrants, a deep dark concentrated sauce of sticky purple fruits. It is not a drink to rush.

With my barbie, it was amazing with the naughty-but-nice sweet bit of charred fat from a crispy grilled lamb chop that the health police say you shouldn’t eat but I ate anyway with a shrug and a ‘so-what?’ face.

It was moreish with a slice of extra mature Cheddar. Some dark intense Excellence Lindt chocolate too with cherry running through it. Very nice.

But you know what, these reds take a bit of getting used to. My Beloved wasn’t a fan. It was odd, he said, that the sparkles were so rich and red. It wasn’t “natural”, he said. Bubbles should be light and white, he said. Red and bubbles, together, are as out of context as Nigel Farage househunting in Romania. Perhaps. He said.

These wines are very rich and filling. Best for a crowd rather than a couple (me and him). One thing, each sparkler we tried was full on with bubbles. No simpering flurries of flighty froth.

Bleasdale Langhorne Creek Sparkling Shiraz review
Bleasdale Langhorne Creek Sparkling Shiraz

Bleasdale Langhorne Creek Sparkling Shiraz (£12.95, The Wine Society) was no exception with a waterfall of red bubbles. We chilled this for a few hours and alongside crunchy crispy chilli-smudged chicken and burnt sausages it was a rich match. It had chocolate and mocha hidden in its fruity depth. Again, a sipping drink.

Grant Burge Shiraz Cabernet Sauvignon review
Grant Burge Shiraz Cabernet Sauvignon

A mega treat was Grant Burge Shiraz Cabernet Sauvignon NV (£20.05, www.thedrinkshop.com); it was a contrast of savoury and sweet; dark fruits dancing in a purple froth, but with rich cherry flavour as in a liqueur; added woody dryness you get from a cocktail stick. Burnt sausages were perfect.

All of these were Aussie wines. I tried another from the New World, Alma 4 Sparkling Bonarda 2011 (£16.95, Slurp.co.uk). Alma is made in Argentina, from handpicked bonardo grapes using the traditional method. This was spicy with tongue-stick dryness. There were cherry and black fruit aromas and to taste a something-or-other I couldnt put my finger on until I decided it was allspice. Who knows my nose.

Also in my glass … I’d never heard of white sangria, until I read about white sangria. And when I knew about it I decided to make one. I Googled and found versions including one by Nigella which included my teen drink Cointreau, and white wine.

My wine of choice was {Yellow Tail] Sauvignon Blanc (£7.99, Sainsbury) which on its own is a decent perky sauv blanc; bright and fruity, balanced and fresh. The white sangria was an eye-opener and I’ll definitely make it again. Oranges and herbs and lemon and lime cutting through from the sauv blanc. Try it with lots of ice when friends come round.

This wine column first appeared in the saturday extra magazine May 30 2014