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Simple grill menus require flavorful wine choices

| Tuesday, July 15, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

Mid July brings prime season for grilling fish, pork, beef and vegetables alike. The grilling ritual tempts the senses with smoky, spicy aromas while locking in caramelized flavors and natural juices. And it provides ample opportunity for advance enjoyment of wines to complete the pleasure.

Pink-hued Ahi tuna steaks make an excellent choice for grilling. Rub inch-thick steaks with olive oil and sprinkle with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Simply sear the tuna steaks over high heat for several minutes on each side.

The charred exterior and still-pink interior offer flavors and textures similar to rare steaks. Pair the tuna with the 2012 Famille Perrin Côtes du Rhône Blanc “Réserve,” France (Luxury 46910; $14.99), a tasty white blend from southern France.

As owners of the famed Château Beaucastel in Châteauneuf du Pape, the Perrin family enjoys extensive knowledge of southern Rhône vineyards and has the resources to secure terrific grapes. The family uses unmatched savoir faire to make stylish, traditional wines.

This wine blends grenache blanc, marsanne, roussanne and viognier grapes grown on clay and limestone soils. The warm conditions typical of the region ripen the grapes robustly, but the soils allow the fruit to retain ample acidity for balance.

The wine's golden color unfolds ripe melon, peach and honeysuckle aromas with light herbal hints. Because the wine is aged in stainless steel rather than oak barrels, its round, ripe flavors of peach and melon take center stage. Juicy, refreshing fruitiness carries through the dry finish. Recommended.

Plump salmon steaks provide another terrific grilling choice. Taking a simple approach, again, yields the best results.

Use wild-caught salmon steaks at least an inch thick with the skin still on. Rub the bright-red steaks with olive oil, kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Grill them with the skin down on medium heat for about 10 minutes until white fat becomes visible.

Pair the salmon steaks with the 2013 Domaine Sainte-Eugénie Corbières Rosé, France (Luxury 48647; $12.99), a bold, salmon-colored wine from southern France's Languedoc region.

Positioned near the Mediterranean Sea, the vast Corbières appellation boasts winemaking roots stretching back to the Roman era. Domaine Sainte Eugénie cultivates vineyard sites within the Fontfroide subdistrict near the foothills of the Pyrénées Mountains.

This blend of cinsault, syrah and grenache benefited from both dry, sunny conditions for ripeness and a high percentage of limestone soils for freshness. After crushing, brief contact with the grapes skins created the wine's delightful, eye-catching color. Fermentation in stainless steel preserves freshness.

The wine delivers ripeness like a red wine, but without tough tannins that might over power the salmon. Strawberry and raspberry aromas jump from the glass with light herbal notes. Ripe red-fruit flavors and light herbal touches greet the palate. Bright acidity and stony, mouthwatering mineral notes frame the fruity, dry finish. Highly recommended.

With an array of grilled meats ranging from juicy hamburgers to thick-cut pork chops and even flank steaks marinated in soy sauce and olive oil, try the versatile 2010 E. Guigal Côtes du Rhône Rouge, France (8132; $14.99). Each year, Guigal turns out 3.5 million bottles — that is, over 290,000 cases — of this red wine with consistent quality and value. Two factors make a difference:

First, the Guigal grows its own grapes but also pays top dollar for grapes grown throughout the Rhône Valley. To receive top prices, growers must follow prescribed vineyard practices and deliver top-quality fruit as evaluated by the Guigal team.

Second, the Guigal firm operates a highly mechanized facility in the northern Rhône. Technology minimizes labor costs, yet Guigal turns out wines as textbook representatives of their terroir.

This tasty red comes from a classic blend of syrah, grenache and mourvèdre grown in granite, limestone and stony soils. Long fermentation at low temperatures allowed the wine extensive maceration on the skins for deep color and complex aromas. Aging for a year and half in large, previously used oak foudres impartes depth and complexity without imposing intrusive woody notes.

The purple to dark-ruby color unfolds dark-fruit, black-pepper and smoky aromas. Ripe black-fruit and spice flavors balance with fresh acidity and smooth tannins that linger pleasantly. Highly recommended.

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

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