Wine & Food

Snooth User: Danica Stitz

White Wines with Barbecue

Posted by Danica Stitz, Jul 1, 2012.


We have all heard the sage words when it comes to food pairing: white wines with fish and red wines with meat. But this week, we decided to challenge that premise at our office by selecting a number of off-the-beaten path white wines to pair with barbecued faire from Brooklyn’s famed Fette Sau. As soon as the food arrived, there was no other smell in the office but roasted meat and brisket, along with spicy and sweet barbecue sauces …

So how did we select the wines we did? When it comes to wine and food pairing, it is important to deconstruct both the wine and the food into more basic elements. Both wine and food can be broken down into two major categories: aromatics/flavors and structure. Everyone is already aware of aromatics and flavors (the grassiness from a sauvignon blanc, a petrol note from riesling or a buttery, vanilla note from an oaked chardonnay), but what about its structure? Aromatics/flavors are what you smell/taste, but structure is how it feels on the palate once you take a sip. A wine’s structure includes:

·      residual sugar level (is it dry, off-dry or sweet?)

·      acidity (does it make the sides of your tongue salivate? Is it zesty or flabby?)

·      weight (is it light like non-fat milk or does it coat your mouth like half and half?)

·      texture (is it silky or oily?)

·      tannins (mainly for reds, adds backbone to wine)

So for white wines with barbecue, we chose wines that had greater intensity of flavors, so that the richness could stand up to the full flavors of the barbecue. Moreover, wines with residual sugar worked beautifully with the heated spiciness of the barbecue sauces and finally, wines with brisk, zesty acidity paired very well with the fattiness of the brisket and pulled pork. And perhaps surprisingly, of the 35 wines we selected, mostly all of them worked!

Here were a few of my favorites:

Ca dei Frati Lugana 2010 (Lombardy, Italy).  This wine is opulent and richly flavored with nutty, smoky overtones. It paired beautifully with both the brisket and the sweeter style barbecue sauce over pulled pork.

Chateau Pajzos Dry Furmint 2009 (Tokaji, Hungary). Sourced from grapes grown in volcanic soil, this wine worked extremely well with flavors and spiciness of the barbecue—it was actually hard to tell whether notes were coming from wine or the food: perfect synergy!

Domaine Taille Aux Loups Montlouis Dix Arpents 2011 (Chenin Blanc, Loire Valley). This wine delivered notes of white peach and apple coupled with smoky minerality and crisp acidity—just what one needs as a brisket chaser!

Man O War Exiled Pinot Gris 2010 (Waiheke Island, New Zealand). This wine had some residual sugar, so it was a knockout with the hot and spicy barbecued brisket, and was no wallflower when it came to intensity of flavors.

Truth be told, this was only half of our tasting. We also had another room where we were pairing red wines with fish, but I didn’t make it in there … from what I heard from others, those wines very worked too, as long as they were not too tannic. So at the end of the day, it’s not really possible to generalize in saying white wines work with this and red wines with that because there is so much variation in each category—so perhaps it’s better to adhere to these even wiser food and wine pairing words: if you like it, it works.


Reply by EMark, Jul 1, 2012.

Very interesting and quite informative, Danica.

We are grilling some pork chops, tonight.  (I suppose there is a difference between outdoor grilling and barbequeing, and I suppose that my general leaning is towards the former rathter than the latter.)  I will also grill some sliced apples.  To go with our grilled pork chops and apple slices Peggy is testing some sort of Asian Slaw with noodles.

To accompany our meal, it so happens that I have a bottle of Torontes in the refrigerator.  So, that I what I am going to try tonight.  I do not have much experience with Torontes, but they seem to be fruity and a tad tart.  So, I am hoping that it will complement the sweetness in the apples and the spice in the slaw.

Reply by GregT, Jul 1, 2012.

I think that white wine with fish and red with meat was something people considered in the 1960s when America was developing a nascent interest in wine - I haven't heard that for many years.

If you're talking about barbeque, the key factor is the sauce and spices, if any.  If you've just done a long slow cooking over not-too-hot coals, that's a different thing than ribs or brisket that you did with a spice rub or mopped with vinegar sauce all afternoon.  I'm not sure there's any "rule" that would apply, since things vary so much.  No surprise that most of the wines worked - it's like Thanksgiving dinner where you usually have enough going on that something will work with whatever wine you have and if not, you just wait a few moments until the flavors fade before sipping your wine.  We make no effort to find a pairing when we're doing barbeque. I will say that the best pairing I've found has to be a margaritas though!


Reply by Danica Stitz, Jul 2, 2012.


How did the Torrontes work with the grilled pork chops with apples? We had El Porvenir de los Angeles Laborum Torrontes, and I found the floral and tropical flavors meshed well ...

Would love to hear (and which Torrontes was it?)...


Reply by Danica Stitz, Jul 2, 2012.


Yes, I dare say that wine as well as barbecue knowledge was merely 'nascent' in the 1960s.... as outdated as these old pairing guidelines. We left the boxed blush zins off our list and served honest, smoky and sauced barbecue with a slew of pairing-worthy wines. (And that said, even boxed wines are much better today, through not as far as I know, blush zin.)  But at the end of the day, the fun was in the exploration... we actually didn't know whether any of it would work, hence our attempt at a more systematic approach.



Reply by EMark, Jul 2, 2012.

The Torontes that I had, last night was somewhat intriguing.  It was Mendoza Station 2010.  This is a very low-dollar, wine and I really did not have great expectations.  The fact that it was already chilled down and the fact that we were having a meal that would have sweet and spicy attributes just seemed serendipitous.

Having a glass before the meal, the wine was not inspiring--it was refreshing, but it did not seem to have much structure or any of fruity flavors that I was seeking.

However, with the meal, it worked just fine.  (The Asian slaw that I referenced previously turned out to be a vegetable noodle stir-fry.  So, let me correct that right now.)  Flavors in the wines seemed to emerge with the meal.  There was fruit that contrasted with the spice, and there was tartness that contrasted with the grilled apples.

I know that if I had a better sample, the results would have been better, but, all in all, I was pleased.

Reply by duncan 906, Jul 3, 2012.

Vouvray demi-sec is a wine that will match most foods

Reply by GregT, Jul 3, 2012.

Had one last night with my erzatz version of larb.

Yeah, it kind of worked. Maybe it's the Vouvray I had - it wasn't really anything great.  But I get the sentiment and I'm kind of in agreement - just thinking about it, dim sum, BBQ ribs, pizza, choucroute, grilled bluefish - it should pretty much work with all of those.

I think you're on to something that an off-dry wine, if a good one, is something that's almost a universal pairing.

Reply by duncan 906, Jul 4, 2012.

I have frequently served Vouvray demi-sec as the white alternative at meals for family and friends because it goes with most foods and you often get somebody who does not like red wine.I always serve a red as well of course unless the food is fish.If my sister is present I always serve a Sauternes because it is her favourite

Reply by duncan 906, Jul 4, 2012.

Another alternative might be a Liebfraumilch or a Mosel as they are also off-dry or medium sweet

Reply by Lisa Rambow, Jul 4, 2012.

I LOVE Torrontes....what is everyone's favorite?

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