Wine of the Week:
Lot 205 Petite Sirah
It’s been almost too hot to cook out the past several weeks, so let’s celebrate the break in the weather with our annual “Wines with Barbecue” issue.
Try a new wine this week!
In the American South, the barbecue competition circuit is in full swing. From the Southeast to Memphis to Kansas City to Lockhart, Texas, smokers are smokin’ and grillers are grillin’, enjoying “low and slow” the many hours required to turn out one of America’s most notable contributions to the food world.
Many fans have already discovered wine with barbecue. In Little Rock, our barbecue wine dinners are some of the best attended and most requested. The key is to serve the sauce on the side, leaving the tender, juicy, smoke-infused meat to shine through, complemented by wine, usually red.
Most barbecue is pork. Pulled pork comes from the upper part of the shoulder, curiously called a butt. In Memphis, the ribs will almost certainly be baby backs, while in Kansas City you’ll likely be eating the larger spareribs. Spareribs are from lower down—not at all “high on the hog”, as baby back fans will point out. St. Louis style means spareribs with the bottom portion trimmed away.
In central Texas, “The Buckle on the Barbecue Belt”, they like beef brisket, smoked for 12-18 hours over live post oak fires. The most famous, Black’s Barbecue in Lockhart (about 20 miles southeast of Austin), doesn’t serve theirs with sauce. Few do. In fact, they say that the only reason they created a sauce at all was for out of state visitors who kept requesting it.
Smoked chicken is less famous, but is included as one of four categories in a Kansas City Barbecue Society-sponsored competition. I think smoked chicken tastes great, though as a Memphis Barbecue Network fan I really prefer pork.
Wine-wise, I like to begin with chicken, paired with a full-bodied white, not too crisp and tart but softer, fuller, rounder, and maybe oakier. Warm climate whites, like Mediterranean varieties (Viognier comes to mind), work well. For pork, I think instantly of fruit-centered reds like California or Oregon pinot noir, or syrah, or maybe a medium-weight California zinfandel. With beef, I’d go with a big red, like an old-vine zin, mourvedre, or maybe a petite sirah. Cabernet and merlot might be noticeably absent from my barbecue favorites list, especially cabernet.
For a good all-purpose barbecue wine, I like the petite sirah from Lot 205 winery in California. It has enough depth and concentration for pork and beef, but is fruit-centered enough not to overwhelm some good smoked chicken. And it retails for around $11 or $12 a bottle.
Barbecue fans know how good wine is with smoked meats!