Pairing Wine for BBQ

20 Jun

This is a version of an article I wrote for the Winchester Star.

Choosing wines for BBQ can be complicated because of the cacophony of flavors, ranging, for example, from coleslaw, to potato salad, to hot dogs to ribs. No single wine is going to pair with everything at a BBQ. The good news is that it’s unnecessary to spend a lot on wine. People are more interested in having a good time rather than examining the nuance of a wine and how the pairing changes as one tastes different food (although that can be fun too).

Consider, for example, the deconstructed BBQ meal in the table, which lists examples of typical foods found at a BBQ and examples of good wine pairings. The wine suggestions all are good value. A crisp white such as Sauvignon Blanc (try Greenstone from NZ or Shannon Ridge from CA) will be a good pairing with coleslaw. For corn bread a Chardonnay with some oak (such as Fat Monk from CA or Domaine Talmard from Fr.) will be a better pairing. A nice smooth red such as a Rioja from Spain (try Grand Familia or Vina Zaco) will pair well with BBQ chicken, but the fat and meaty taste of pulled pork warrants a bigger wine, such as a Grenache blend (try the Piaugier Grange or Elicio). Red Zinfandel (try our Stray Dog or Kline from CA) is a classic pairing with Ribs.
Food Example Wine Pairing
Cole Slaw Sauvignon Blanc
Corn Bread Chardonnnay
BBQ Chicken Tempranillo (Rioja)
Pulled Pork Grenache Blend
Ribs Zinfandel

One way to address this is, if one of the foods is a specialty, e.g. baby back ribs, pair a wine with the ribs. Another approach is to pick a wine that pairs well with the food you like best, and not worry too much about the pairing. Also, a little residual sugar (i.e. sweetness) in the wines can temper hot and spicy food. Think Riesling (Red Newt from the Finger Lakes) or Gewürztraminer (AVV from CA).

The “middle road” is to pick wines that are versatile, that will go pretty well with many of the foods. Sparkling and rose wines are good candidates for this reason. Because bubbles cut through fat and can stand up to bold flavors, they are a great all-around drink for BBQ. Many nice low cost sparklers fit the bill, like Cavas from Spain (e.g. Killa Cava), Prosecco’s (like Marsuret) from Italy or any other sparkling wine you like. Of course, beer is a bubbly, and a no-brainer to have with BBQ. Dry Rose’s (such as the Domaine Houchard or Ch. La Moutete) also are versatile, offering refreshing crispness while at the same time being able to stand up to meats and spicy foods. It’s a good idea to have a few options. Once you’ve selected the wine(s), have fun and don’t worry about it. A perfect pairing for one person may not be so perfect for another person.

Pairings Wine and Food is presenting 6 wines with food pairings from Blue Ribbon Bar-B-Q, similar to the table above, on Saturday June 25, from 4-7pm, just in time for the 4th of July. Try the pairings yourself.


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