Plonk of the Month

Reds to complement the backyard grill

(Stephen Meuse for The Boston Globe)
By Stephen Meuse
Globe Correspondent / May 26, 2010

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We live in a neighborhood with an ethnic mix that cherishes the kebab. We’ve learned to love the simplicity of the thing — a few bits of meat cooked quickly on an open fire with a tiny tomato, chip of green pepper, or onion wedge. Some vacation time in the Middle East this year turned us into complete skewer heads. Now it’s all we want to eat, and the grill, already in pretty heavy use this time of year, is getting a real workout.

The kebab had its origin in pre-agricultural, nomadic societies in which the rhythm of life was set by seasonal migrations of flocks and herds from lowland to upland pastures. By contrast, winemaking, which requires sedentary habits, could have come about only in societies where the herding life was relinquished in favor of a new subsistence model: village agriculture. Pairing a glass of red wine with a hot-off-the-fire kebab in your backyard is no insignificant event, it turns out. The pairing represents a hard-won reconciliation between rival economic and cultural systems of long standing; a remarkable achievement with world-historical implications.

We’ll celebrate the accomplishment this weekend, while serving up kebabs and toasting the alliance of shepherd and farmer with a few reds. They are sufficiently versatile to pair with whatever meaty morsels you are likely to be skewering — and will be even better with a little anthropology served on the side.

Ercavio Tierra de Castilla 2007 Light, lively, and simple with some bright red fruit and mineral elements; some acid structure; a solid little wine. Around $12. At Vintages, Belmont, 617-484-4560, and West Concord, 978-369-2545; Austin Liquors, Shrewsbury, 508-755-8100; Shubie’s, Marblehead, 781-631-0149.

Enanzo Navarra 2008 Great zip and life here; juicy dark red fruit and some welcome earthy notes. Nicely balanced; appealing, appetizing stuff. Around $12. At Federal Wine & Spirits, Boston, 617-367-8605; Andover Liquors, Andover, 978-470-0500; Derby Street Wine and Spirits, Hingham, 781-749-9463.

Castano Yecla Monastrell 2008 Soft, ripe, and cushy; darker red fruit profile; loamy notes. Both genial and versatile; the best vintage of this wine we have tasted. Around $10. At Magnolia Wine Co., Watertown, 617-924-6040; Marty’s Fine Wines, Newton, 617-332-1230; Post Road Liquors, Wayland, 508-358-4300.

Vila “Tinto Fundacion’’ Mendoza 2007 Biggish, round, ripe, and spicy; some black coffee notes; a bit heftier style with some pleasingly nappy tannins. Will work with saucy ribs and wings. Around $11. At Alexander’s Wines & Specialties, Beverly, 978-524-7877; Menotomy Beer & Wine, Arlington, 781-646-0889; Blanchards Wines & Spirits, Jamaica Plain, 617-522-9300.

Evodia Calatayud 2008 Brightly fruity, even grapey flavors. Softly textured with some appealing astringency in the finish. Love a bit of grip. Around $11. At Gordon’s Fine Wine, Watertown, 617-926-1119; Whole Foods, River Street, Cambridge, 617-876-6990; Blanchard’s Liquor, Allston, 617-782-5588.

Stephen Meuse can be reached at