The key to any food-and-wine pairing is to zero in on the key flavor of the food.
Take chicken, for example.
Cook chicken in a frying pan or deep fryer with just some oil and minimal seasoning, and almost any white wine would make a good pairing partner. Just chill it down for a half-hour or so, and enjoy.
But what if you were eating Chinese-style orange chicken? In that case, a wine that shows off some orange-like nuances would be ideal. Think: Muscat, Orange Muscat or Moscato.
And so it is with barbecue. Now, to cover all the wine pairing possibilities with all the different styles of barbecue would require a very thick book rather than a relatively short blog. So, we’re going to concentrate on the backyard barbecue: meat (beef, chicken, pork, etc.) cooked slowly over fire, topped with some sort of semi-sweet sauce.
What’s the key flavor of the food? Most likely, it’s the sauce. So, we need a wine that not only plays off the texture and succulence of the meat, but also complements (and won’t be overwhelmed by) the flavor of the sauce.
Fortunately, those parameters are not as limiting as they may seem. There actually are numerous choices. Here are our favorite pairing partners for a backyard barbecue:
- Syrah or Shiraz
- “GSM” (a blend of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre—either from southern France or Australia)
- Rosé-style wines (in particular, those made from any of the above varieties)
And here’s one tip you may not read in very many wine blogs: It’s perfectly okay to chill down a red wine before serving. In fact, with barbecue fare, we highly recommend it. Thirty minutes in the refrigerator before serving is ideal.
Chilling basically doubles the pairing enjoyment factor. Not only do you get the complementary flavors of the food and the wine, but the “coolness” of the wine helps mediate the “heat” of the food.
When it comes to food and wine pairing, both similarities and “opposites” can be complementary.