July 4 is almost upon us, this year it is on a Monday, and that means at least a three-day weekend. The saying associated with the holiday is “As American as Apple Pie”: but what about the main course? In our family, it was usually barbecued baby-back pork ribs, with potato salad, and barbeque beans. However, such a description is not the only information needed to pick a wine.
Our sauce began with a grocery store sauce, nowadays like Sweet Baby Ray’s, mixed with some brown sugar, 8 ounces of beer, and a tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce; a recipe now passed down to a third generation. This sauce is best to be paired with a Pinot Noir on the red side and for a cooling effect perhaps a white like a German Riesling or even a French Pinot Gris. Nevertheless, there are different strokes for different folks. In Alabama, they like white Barbeque sauce that starts with mayonnaise, combined with apple cider, vinegar, and spices.
They put it on all proteins, from ribs to beef to chicken to seafood to turkey. Having never tried it, and not hoping for a chance, one can only guess that perhaps Chardonnay or Beaujolais might fill the bill, especially on any fish presentations. One might even venture into a chilled rose. The rural tradition of slow cooking meat over wood coals allowed the cheaper cuts to achieve tenderness and flavor that is difficult to find in a kitchen.
The indigenous people living in the Caribbean developed many of these techniques hundreds of years ago. Spanish colonizers co-opted the methodology and called it barbecue, translated to English as barbecue. Historians say that early-enslaved Africans slathered their meats with sauces made from lime and lemon juice, with hot peppers, to enhance the flavors. Later incarnations included a tomato base, sugar, or molasses, and concoctions that are more modern: think Tabasco and Liquid Smoke.
The Carolinas have unique willows. In North Carolina, the sauce is sweet, and not unlike the sauce, we have used for barbeque. The types of wine that pair well with it might include a Syrah/Shiraz or going further afield, a Pinotage-the South African wine. A braai is a South African barbecue. They tend to have extended meals that include grilling meats, sausages, and vegetables-along with specialty sandwiches. Pinotage is a wine that 30 years ago was shunned on the world market, for political reasons, and now is ascending for various reasons including the fact that currency exchange rates make it relatively inexpensive, and thus ideal for large gatherings.
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South Carolina typically has a sauce that is mustard-based, which one equates to the high acid Italian red gravy types of sauce found on pasta. So when in Rome….think Italian wines like such as Barolo, Chianti Classico, or Brunello di Montalcino. Full-bodied and tannic wines pair well with most acidic sauces. The very basis of most barbeque sauce includes any added salt, in addition to that implied by the other ingredients. Salt enhances the body of a wine, creating the impression of softer tannins.
It also helps to reduce any bitter or acidic notes. Kansas City-style sauce uses ketchup and molasses to make it sweeter with a thicker consistency. Other typical ingredients include Worcestershire, vinegar, soy sauce, and other spices that usually find their way into the recipe. The flavor profile is heavy and young left bank Bordeaux blends are a good choice because with Cabernet Sauvignon as the main grape, they have a profile that answers the heaviness of a full-bodied sauce, with a powerful punch.
The choice of wine-based strictly on the protein presented is not a hard and fast rule; the main determinant is the sauce, whether one of the French Mother Sauces or your local favorite. Barbeque sauce is regionally diverse, and though many wines are universally compatible with a cookout, it is smart to consider the sweetness and acidity of the sauce, in addition to the meats or fish one applies. As in all situations, drink wines that you personally enjoy, regardless of the menu.
As the Fourth is usually one of the hotter days of the year, we recommend that you serve all wines at a slightly lower temperature than normal. Refrigerate white wines a couple of hours before service, and take them out about 45 minutes in advance. Then use that opportunity to chill the reds for 30 minutes. In addition, do not forget the apple pie, and a chilled rosé is always appropriate!
Stay healthy, and Cheers
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