Campfires, Barbecues & Tannat

Hot nights, which have now arrived with consistency, cry for backyard wines: bottles to accompany a campfire or food cooked on a grill. We favour protein-heavy meals, flavours of char and smoke, and we tend to buy patio-friendly bottles that don't require much fuss. But what if you want to open something special?

I recently tasted through the new release of Stratus' small-batched wines from the 2010 vintage, which includes Sangiovese, Tempranillo, Petit Verdot, and Tannat (between 25 and 50 cases of each). I'm sometimes cynical about Niagara's affair with planting full-bodied red grapes, but Stratus is one winery that will gladly shake you free from your biases. The situation of the Stratus vineyard allows these grapes to ripen (seemingly) effortlessly.

Of the flight, the glass I kept returning to was the Tannat. It is a pretty wine (violets, dark berry fruit and characters of iron), but at the same time brutish. The tannin is full, but softened with age and far from uncomfortably aggressive. It's obvious this wine won't shy from big flavours, and I can't help but imagine a barbecue spilling out smoke.

Tannat comes from South West France and is the hero of the infamously tannic and chewy reds of Madiran. Stratus' Tannat wasn't the first from Canada I've tasted. The Okanagan's Moon Curser also makes an impressive blend called Dead of Night.

So what will make Tannat sing? Something like this barbecued lamb recipe from Jamie Oliver or this grilled bison from the Globe and Mail. The tannins will sink into smoky, bold meats and the iron flavour will complement protein on the rarer side.

For another Niagara red with similar chops, check out the Creekside Estate 2010 Laura's Red, a blend of Syrah, Merlot, Malbec, Cab.

If you'd rather stick to a fuss-free backyard sipper, check out the Stratus 2013 Wildass Rosé. A kitchen-sink blend of deliciousness.

Jake Skakun is a writer and sommelier from Vancouver, currently living in Toronto. He can be found most days pulling corks and twisting caps at the Black Hoof. He Tweets and Instagrams @jakeskakun.

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