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Summer's end merits exceptional wine and grill pairings

| Tuesday, Aug. 27, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

With summer slipping away, the only sensible course lies in firing up the grill and opening tasty bottles of wine.

To assist in the effort, the PLCB's Premium Collection inventory couldn't be better heading into the Labor Day weekend. Pick up both white and red wines and consider trying the following tasty combinations:

No country surpassed Portugal over the last 20 years for sustained improvement in delivering terrific, value-laden wines. Portuguese vinho branco — that is, white wines — have become especially notable.

For example, the 2012 Cortes de Cima Chaminé Vinho Branco, Alentejano, Portugal (Luxury 43173; $13.99) has marvelous aromas, rich texture and superb balance to create a beautiful pairing with grilled fish. It blends antão vaz and verdelho — traditional Portuguese varieties — with the international varieties of sauvignon blanc and viognier. All the grapes grow near coastal southern Portugal bathed by cooling maritime breezes.

After harvest in the cool early morning, the fruit ferments in temperature-control stainless steel to preserve freshness and aromatic complexity, qualities notably lacking in Portuguese wines of preceding generations. Aging the wine on the lees — spent yeast cells — added creamy texture to balance the grapes' inherent tart acidity.

The golden-colored wine unleashes pear, quince and honeysuckle aromas. Ripe apple, pear and tart grapefruit flavors balance with a lovely vein of acidity carrying through the dry finish. Recommended.

For delicious barbecued chicken legs and thighs, cook the pieces over indirect, low heat for about an hour. By avoiding the direct heat and flames, the chicken remains juicy and tender on the inside, while the crisp skin becomes caramelized with the generous application of your favorite sweet and spicy brown sauce.

Pair the chicken with a slightly chilled bottle of the very tasty 2010 Domaine Bruno Dufeu Bourgeuil “Grand Mont,” France (Luxury 46245; $14.99). Yes, it is a red.

Monsieur Dufeu's Grand Mont Vineyard lies in high slopes along the Loire River's right bank. He has the good fortune to work with low-yielding 50-year-old Breton — that is, cabernet franc — vines growing in clay, limestone and chalky tuffeau soils.

Labor-intensive, severe pruning reduces yields further and concentrates the vines' energies into ripening the few remaining grapes. The harvested crop delivers complex aromas, ample fruitiness, refreshing acidity and elegant tannins.

Fermentation and maturation of the wine in stainless steel also extenuate the lovely fruit-forward personality. On the nose, black-raspberry and violet aromas mix with hints of smoky graphite. In the glass, classic tart raspberry and plum flavors with light herbal notes unfold completely unaffected by oak. Bright acidity and fresh mineral traits carry through the smooth tannins and dry, but fruity finish. Highly recommended.

For a special treat, grill veal chops briefly over high heat. The exterior should be well cooked and smoky while inside the meat remains moist and juicy. Pair the veal with the tasty 2012 Fattoria del Cerro Chianti Colli Sensi, Italy (Luxury 46263; $11.99), an Italian classic produced near the medieval city of Sienna.

In an effort to attract international attention and high numerical ratings, some modern Chianti producers fall prey to blending in international varieties such as merlot. They also resort to aging the wine in new, small oak barrels.

Such wines betray traditional Chianti and undermine this noble wine's deep roots and classic, distinctive personality. Not so with Fattoria del Cerro's Chianti Colli Sensi, which uses a classic blend of Sangiovese (90 percent) and canaiolo nero.

The ruddy, ruby-colored wine offers black-cherry aromas with light herbal notes. Aging in large, Slavonian oak casks for about three months adds just a hint of tannic structure while the fruit's natural freshness and acidity shine. Highly recommended.

Dave DeSimone writes about wine for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at ddesimone@tribweb.com.

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