Many BBQ “Masters” attest that ‘properly prepared BBQ meat should stand up on its own and does not need a sauce’. In fact in some of the famous BBQ regions of the midwest and south only serve barbecue sauce on the side for “tourists”.
In most of the non-BBQ regions the barbecue grill is fired up only during the summer months in our backyards. We gently lay out the burgers, steaks, and other meats over the fire then aggressively ‘stab’ them with the huge barbecue fork, slap them on a bun or the plate, and finally douse them with our favorite sauces. (I hope the BBQ “Masters” don’t hate us for killing our food.)
I would venture to say that our modern day palates crave that spicy sweetness which we lovingly pour all over our meats. This is what we enjoy most but it is also what makes the wine pairing challenging.
In order to keep up with the sauces choose a wine that can stand up to the flavors in the sauce. Red zinfandel or syrah/shiraz are good choices. You can also benefit from the palate cleansing effect of sparkling wines. The bubbles are the key to making each bite of food taste just like the first.
Choose a red wine that is medium to full bodied with an alcohol level of under 14%. The higher alcohol wines will have a “hotness” to them which will make the spices in the BBQ sauce become more prominent and you will not be able to enjoy the other flavors of the dish you are eating.
Red Zinfandels that have spicy black pepper and fruity flavors are great with barbecue. Look for California’s Sonoma County zins.
A few popular varieties that can be found in almost every area of the country are Blackstone, Dry Creek and Old Vine Zin.
Syrah or Shiraz also pair well with barbecue. They have a silkiness and smoky tannins with rich fruit flavors. Popular varieties from California are Benziger, and Rosenblum Cellars, or choose an Australian Shiraz from Rosemount or Penfolds Koonunga Hill which is a blend of Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon.
I’m a fan of “pink” or blush wines and they are a very good match with BBQ. There are also many “pink” or “blush” sparkling wines that you can choose from to go with your BBQ. Check your local wine shop to see if they carry an Australian sparkling Shiraz.
Other affordable selections to choose can be a Prosecco from Italy, a Spanish cava from Freixenet or Segura Vida.
Red wines are really best with barbecue, but if you choose a white wine you will want one that is crisp with fruity flavors and some minerality. The wine needs to cut through the rich barbecue flavors. (A rich, buttery, oaky California chardonnay is not a good pairing.)
Food-friendly Sauvignon Blanc, a French style Chablis, or a Muscadet all have crisp acidity and a minerality that will cut through the rich BBQ flavors. Also try Pinot Grigio or Chenin Blanc. Perfect to enjoy with the pulled pork sandwich or BBQ chicken.
Enjoy a wonderful end of summer Labor Day weekend.