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Black Beauties

Australia's Perfect Barbecue Wine

It's warming up a bit, or at least as much as it does in San Francisco, and as a city we tend to enjoy whatever sunshine we get during the summer months. And what better way to enjoy that sunny afternoon than with a barbecue? While beer is a natural choice I have something a bit different to add to the mix, if you dare.

Sparkling Shiraz has been made in Australia for over 100 years and it's finally making itself known in the states. I stumbled upon it by accident at my neighborhood wine bar and what a treat I found. What I expected to get was a sparkling rose made from Shiraz. Instead I was poured a champagne flute of almost black liquid with a slight chill and a frothy head of ruby bubbles. One quick sip and I was sold. Ultimately, it was a very fruity-style Shiraz full of the flavors of blackberries, blueberries, a bit of cedar and bubbles. It's a medium-to-full-bodied red wine with structure and tannin as well as tons of fruit.

After a bit of research I found that the wine starts as a ripe warm climate Shiraz vinified into a dry table wine. This base wine is then put through a second fermentation method champenoise. I won't bog you down with the details, but essentially that means bubbles are added naturally while the wine ages in the bottle. Sometimes a bit of shiraz port is added to fortify the wine which also results in a touch of sweetness, but served slightly chilled I promise this will compliment any grilled meat. Hardy's Australian Sparkling Shiraz ($20 @ Ferry Plaza Wine Merchant, Ferry Plaza Marketplace shop #23) is a well-made version to get you started, but anything in the $15 to $20 range is certainly worth checking into.

Your guests will either love it or be impressed by you for pouring such a daring wine.

Vineyards Genevieve Robertson can be reached at [email protected]