May is National Barbecue Month, and many great wine countries, like South Africa and Argentina, have strong barbecue traditions. Braai (bry) is the Afrikaans name for barbecue, and South Africans are nuts for it. Braai was started by Dutch settlers in the 1600s, but it is now loved by all South Africans and may be as close to a national cuisine as South Africa gets.
In fact, there is a movement, led by South African Jan Scannell and backed by Desmond Tutu, to create an official National Braai Day. Braai is done over a wood fire, and everything from beef to ostrich to fish is grilled. Families, neighbors and friends gather for Braais, which often last all day. For the grilled white fish that you’ll find at coastal Braais, a crisp South African sauvignon blanc will stand up to the grilled flavors but not overwhelm the fish. For heavier fare such as beef or lamb, we suggest one of South Africa’s cabernet sauvignons or syrahs.
DE GRENDEL Sauvignon Blanc 2013 (Durbanville, South Africa) $20
RADFORD DALE "Black Rock" Red Rhone Blend 2011 (Swartland, South Africa) $35
Argentina’s version of the barbecue, called asado (it means roasted), is similarly central to Argentine culture and an important social event. One major difference is that Argentina’s world-famous beef, raised on grass from the rolling hills on which they freely roam, is usually the focus of the meal. The tradition of the asado comes from Argentina’s wild days when gauchos, or cowboys, worked vast tracts of land and had only open fires on which to cook their dinners. The asado is a slow and careful process--the grill must be set up just right, and the meat must be cooked by indirect heat. This process takes a long time, meaning that friends and family are often gathered around the grill for hours. Slow-roasted over wood coals and only seasoned with a little salt and pepper, this beef is a heavenly pairing with Argentina’s other national pride, malbec.
FAMILIA MARGUERY “Casa Marguery” Malbec 2011 (Mendoza, Argentina) $15
BODEGA PULENTA Estate Gran Malbec 2010 (Mendoza, Argentina) $29