Big Italian Red Wines to Help Kickoff the Barbeque Season

The month of May is the time to roll the barbeque grill out of winter storage and dust it off in preparation for another season of great grilling.

If you’re serving hamburgers, pork, steak, barbecued ribs, or beef tenderloin from the grill, only big red wines will do. Bold, fruity red wines with a touch of spice, such as Primitivo, Negroamaro or other robust reds are perfect matches for barbequed beef and pork dishes especially if the sauce accents the meat flavors. But don’t over-analyze the meat and wine pairing - simplicity is the key to success when matching wines with casual, outdoor dining, Keep it simple, casual and, yes, inexpensive. 

Here are two bold Italian red wines to help kickoff the barbeque season.

Wine for May – under $20

Masseria Cicella, Primitivo Salento IGT 2011 (about $16)

Primitivo is a variety that thrives in the warm, sunny climate of southern Italy. But it is the Puglia region of southern Italy that is Primitivo’s spiritual home and where the Primitive variety finds its greatest expression.

The Primitivo variety produces deeply-colored, intensely flavored and complex wines with enough dark-fruit flavors to make even Bacchus swoon. While all over the map stylistically, many Primitivo wines are delicious, generous and inexpensive wines that rank high on a quality-to-price basis. In the event you’re not familiar with the variety, the Primitivo Salento from the Masseria Cicella estate is a good introduction to the variety.

The Masseria Cicella winery is in the Salento IGT area which is located in the southern-most section of Puglia, i.e., in the peninsula that comprises the “heel” of the “boot” that is geographic Italy. The Salento IGT zone covers a wide geographic area that includes most of the land area of the peninsula and the IGT regulations are quite generous in terms of the types and varieties of wines that can be produced here. But most producers adhere to the dry, powerful reds evocative of the area’s dry and hot Mediterranean climate.

Masseria Cicella’s Primitivo consists entirely of Primitivo grapes sourced from the estate’s 15 acres of vineyards. The grapes are harvested at the end of August and undergo a relatively long two-week maceration. 

Masseria Cicella, Primitivo Salento IGT 2011This 2011 Primitivo has a deep purple color that borders on black. A gently swishing of the glass releases seductive blackberry and plum aromas that follow through in the taste. It has a firmly structured presentation that coats your mouth with lively blackberry and dark currant flavors with just a touch of spice on the finish. While its dark fruit flavors are earthy they are not at all heavy or biting. There are no rough edges here, just soft, seductive dark fruit flavors. It has 14.5 percent alcohol by volume.

I’ve served this wine on several occasions to friends and it uniformly draws favorable comments, even from tasters that are not big fans of big southern Italian red wines.

The 2011 Primitivo from Masseria Cicella is a fantastic barbeque wine. It has the stuffing to stand up to barbequed ribs, steaks, sausages and pork or other flavorful meats such as game.

Wine for may – $20 and over

Moschioni, Rosso Moschioni 2010 (about $24)

The Collio Orientali del Friuli is a small, hilly wine zone in the Friuli region (more formally known as Friuli-Venezia-Giulia) in far northeastern Italy bordering Slovenia. While not widely known, Colli Orientali del Friuli, along with Collio, is generally regarded as the finest DOC zone in the Friuli region and is the source of some of Italy’s best white wines.

The Collie Orientali DOC also produces some quality red wines. But red wines account for only about a third of the DOC’s total production. The major red wine varieties include well-known international varieties such as Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir as well as not-so-well-known native Italian varieties like Refosco, Pignolo and Schioppettino.

The Moschioni winery is a relatively small but picturesque 25 acre estate near the town of Cividale which is just a short distance from the Slovenian border. Running counter to the norm in this white-wine region, the Moschioni vineyards today are planted exclusively with red wine varieties. The owner and manager, Michele Moschioni, is rapidly gaining a well-earned reputation as an artisanal, small-batch producer of superlative red wines.

He also is a natural wine advocate and all his wines are produced without the use of any chemical fertilizers or pesticides in the vineyards or non-native yeasts in the fermentation process. Only natural yeasts and used in the fermentation process and wines are bottled without fining or filtration. The wines of Moschioni are about as natural and unmanipulated as wines can get.

The estate’s Rosso Moschioni is a blend of various red varieties that 2010 Moschioni, Rosso Moschioniincludes Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pignolo, Schioppettino and Refosco with the exact percentages of each varying from year to year depending on climatic conditions. To ensure maximum ripeness, the grapes are harvested relatively late in the season, generally from mid-September to early October.

The wines are separately fermented using only natural yeasts, with the maceration period ranging from 15 to 25 days depending on the variety. Following fermentation, the wines are blended and aged for three years in a combination of barriques and large-format barrels. The wine is then bottled unfiltered and spends an additional six months prior to release for sale.

The 2010 Rosso from Moschioni is a fascinating wine. It has a deep purple-red color with dark berry and floral aromatics. It is full-bodied and loaded with ripe black cherry and prune flavors with just a hint of cocoa and coffee. It has a smooth, round texture with mild tannins and a pleasant rustic “burr” on the finish. It has considerable more body, structure and intensity than what one would expect from a high elevation, white wine region in the far northern reaches of Italy.

This wine goes well with hard cheeses, mushroom risotto and stews but is at its best when served with grilled red meats.


©Richard Marcis
May 7, 2015

To view other wine of the month selections, see Monthly Wine Reviews

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