Grilling… and Wine Pairing… Secrets Revealed

Barbecue GrillAs I noted in a blog post a few years ago, pretty much everything I know about barbecue comes from Steven Raichlen, who has written several books on the subject.

Raichlen’s books… and over-cooking quite a few chunks of meat before I’d had a chance to read those books.

“The Barbecue! Bible” is perhaps the most comprehensive barbecue tome out there — comparable in detail and readability to Karen MacNeil’s “The Wine Bible.”

Raichlen also has written a book devoted exclusively to sauces, rubs, marinades, bastes, butters and glazes, as well as a step-by-step “how-to” book on the subject, perfect for barbecue newbies.

Read all three books, and you’ll know everything you’ll ever need to know about barbecue… and a whole lot more.

The go-to beverage at most backyard barbecues is beer. And that makes perfect sense. When the weather is warm to hot, and when the food is hot and perhaps a bit spicy, a nice cold brew can be mighty refreshing.

But if you’re looking for something beyond mere refreshment with your barbecue — a beverage with flavors that complement the flavors of the food — wine can work just fine.

Of course, it needs to be the right kind of wine, or you could end up with a pairing that does neither the wine nor the food any favors.

So, what kind of wine pairs best with BBQ? 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.

bbq715Fortunately, 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:

  • “GSM” (a blend of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre—either from southern France or Australia)

Check out today’s sale from Vinesse for some specific barbecue-friendly wine ideas.

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 it. In fact, with barbecue fare, we highly recommend it. Thirty to 45 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.

Happy grilling!

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Posted in Wine Buzz
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