The years I spent living in Italy changed my concept of Barbecue forever and so my take on this Wine Blogging Wednesday topic takes a decidedly un-American twist. My version of Barbecue now brings up the vision of my friend Massimo sweating over a very smoky fire of real wood instead of charcoal, sipping on a big bottle of Becks and rapidly turning the fresh fish on the grill. While every smoky bit of seafood he tossed on the big platters was delicious, for me nothing could beat the rich, oily taste of the fresh anchovies and sardines.
Massimo marinates them briefly in extra virgin olive oil, onions, lemon and rosemary before tossing them over the hot, smoky fire for just a few moments per side. The results quickly made me forget ribs and burgers. Fortunately for me, in the USA Oriental fish shops are a good source of fresh anchovies and sardines - at least if you ask for them.
While crisp Oregon pinot gris is certainly a great choice for these little beauties, I usually find myself going back to the zesty Italian whites I would have shared with Massimo on such an occasion. While you want plenty of acidity to balance their richness, you also need a bit of body to match their full flavor. This year a bottle of 2004 Cesani Vernaccia di San Gimignano (imported by the ever reliable Montecastelli) was the perfect foil. With a firm backbone of acidity expanding into round, mineral, almond and fresh pear aromas and flavors, this is no simple tourist San Gimignano white, but a wine that will grab your attention - at least until you pop the next anchovy into your mouth.