By Cecil Flentge
In San Antonio, we tend to make our barbecue with rich seasoning and a healthy touch of smoke. There are many variations and techniques, but it really gets down to just one seasoning touch when matching wine and barbecue.
Maybe it’s sweet from the local honey that is added to the sauce, or the agave nectar that is the secret ingredient, or the cup of brown sugar that is part of the dry rub, but there is a sweetness. This is where we often find confusion when making wine selections. If you take a bite of a good brisket sandwich with a little barbecue sauce on it and then take a sip of a dry (opposite of sweet) California Chardonnay, the wine will taste sour. Imagine eating a praline for dessert and then a grape. The grape would taste sour because your tongue is still comparing it to the super sweet praline.
The same thing happens in matching wine and food in general — or barbecue and wine specifically. The wine needs to be as sweet as, or a little-sweeter than, the food you are pairing it with. Here are a few wines that can complement your ‘cue.
Chateau Ste. Michelle, Riesling, Washington 2010
This one has been in the market for a decade or more, but for $7 at Target, it is a great value.
Fact: A light apple-lemon nose. Crisp, Granny Smith apple flavors with a citrus finish.
Feeling: Relax and enjoy. This is a friendly wine that will clear the palate between bites of a Carolina tangy, mustard-barbecued chicken.
This is a white wine, or is it a white rosé? The combination of Sauvignon Blanc grapes (white wine) with Carmenere grapes (red wine) would make you think it would be a rosé, but it is not. Still, there are some ‘not-white’ flavors in this $8 wine from CostCo.
Fact: A tropical fruit, melon, and tart cherry nose. Tropical fruit flavors with a steely mineral seasoning and still a hint of the cherry flowing into a slightly off-dry finish.
Feeling: Sitting in the shade at the picnic table with slices of dry rubbed, smoked brisket displaying the red line inside the crusty edge. No sauce, just a juicy bite, followed by the cold ambrosia of the wine, keeping you cool and ready for the evening.
Black Opal, Cabernet Sauvignon, Australia 2009
This is a familiar label that I had not tried in a few years, $8 at HEB. Australia has had even more trouble with drought than we have in San Antonio. The silver lining is that this can make for some very concentrated grapes, as demonstrated here.
Fact: A fragrant bouquet of blackcurrant, mint and spice gives way to black cherry and red berry fruit flavors. Only a little sweetness on the finish but the overall fruity richness lingers.
Feeling: The ribs are ready and you have been waiting for this all day. You take a sip of wine, chilled for thirty minutes in the refrigerator, it tastes like chilled blackberries. Let the feast begin!
Renwood has a long history of making very good Zinfandels and Cabernets. But finding one for $9.99 at H-E-B and with enough age to mellow, well, that is great!
Fact: Blackberry and cherry aromas that developed over a half hour. A lighter color than some Zins, but full of red and black fruit flavors with nutmeg and star anise woven throughout. A smooth finish of blackberry and coffee on the finish with only mild tannins – a benefit of the age of the wine.
Feeling: The name was a direct challenge. If the wine was for BBQ, then I had to make some barbecue. I mixed up a rub, slathered it on some pork chops, put them on the smoker for about twenty minutes, and poured some wine. Oh yeah, teamwork is great!
Freixenet, Carta Nevada Semi-dry Cava, Spain, NV
Spanish sparklers are always a value and this black label example is true to form. Sold almost everywhere for $9-10, it has soft bubbles and a rich flavor.
Fact: Overripe apple/pear packed into fresh baked bread jumps from the glass to announce this wine. Light apple and peach flavors with a hint of lemon and a fruity finish.
Feeling: Pop! The sound of the cork heralds good times ahead. In Texas, barbecue is a celebration of our heritage. Spain was part of that heritage so bring on the Spanish bubbly! Sparkling wine makes anything special and you are worth it!