Pick ‘N’ Swirl
My personal aha moment in wine came in the late ’90s when I tasted a Napa Valley Cabernet with ribs made in the Texas style. My family doesn’t drink alcohol and this discovery of a food that I love paired with wine intrigued me. How did the wine bring out the sweetness of the charred meat? What was happening in my mouth with all these new flavors? It was sensory overload. After that moment I slowly began my wine journey. Although it took me years to transition fully into the wine industry, I always think of the moment when food and wine can change your life.
Wine, for a long time, was only paired with fine dining. But wine should be consumed with a vast array of foods, from the elegant and refined to snack foods. There is a wine for every style of food, and it’s time wine pairings do the same. Barbecue and wine are not quickly associated together—but they should be. Every culture barbecues, although it may be called something different. Barbecue, as we know it in the US, now varies in style by location. Here, I’ve selected five different wines to pair with five different styles of barbecue, meant to bring out the flavors and aromas of both the wine and the food.
SMOKED CHICKEN WINGS
Pairing: Raventós i Blanc, Conca del Riu Anoia Brut Blanc de Blancs Sparkling Wine
This sparkling wine is made in Spain but is not a part of the Cava DO. It’s made in the same method as Champagne and has aromas of yeast that pair with the smokiness of the wings. The acid on the palate enhances the flavor of the chicken.
MEMPHIS-STYLE DRY RUB RIBS
Pairing: Domaine Delaporte Sancerre Rosé Chauvignol 2020
Ribs usually have a slightly sweeter taste due to the sugar in the dry rub and this wine enhances that sweetness. It has enough juiciness and citrus to balance the richness of the rub while not overpowering the flavor.
SMOKED SAUSAGE LINKS
Pairing: Torre dei Beati Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo
The fat in smoked sausage pairs with a rosé that has depth and complexity. This Italian rosé drinks like a light-bodied red. It can stand up to spicy or sweet smoked sausage and presents a perfect balance that not many lighter style rosés can give.
CAROLINA PULLED PORK WITH A MUSTARD-BASED SAUCE
Pairing: Long Meadow Ranch’s Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley 2016
Mustard can be a tricky pairing and certain wines with it will create a bitterness in the mouth. Pairing a fruit-forward wine with a hint of spice will complement the pork and the sauce. One key is serving the wine with a slight chill to enhance the flavors as it opens up.
Pairing: Martin Ray’s Cabernet Sauvignon 2017
Brisket and cabernet is my go-to pairing. Texas brisket is smoked low and slow, which renders the fat as the meat cooks, allowing the natural flavors of the meat to come through. Texas-style brisket isn’t rushed and it needs a wine to stand up to the fat, the meat, and the crispy charred bits on the brisket. This cabernet is bright and lush at the same time. It doesn’t need much air-time—the aromas and flavors are well integrated, so no need to decant this one.
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