By Pat Broderick, “The Wine Guy”

One of my good friends at The Smokin’ BBQ Pit,  posed a question to me the other day; “Pat,” he mused, “what wine goes best with barbecue?”
Initially it seemed a simple question, but as I started to formulate an answer it dawned on me that there is no simple response.





  • First, one must consider the different regional styles of barbecue: Carolina, Memphis, Texas and Kansas City, not to ignore the International flare of Brazilian churrasco, Argentine, Spanish , Asian and on and on.  All regions have unique aspects in rub, sauce, preparation and presentation, as well as certain factors in common.
  • Second, there is the base protein to consider: beef, pork and poultry; but the genre needs to be expanded to include the fruits of the sea and the sportsman’s take of venison, wild fowl and game.
  • Third, you need to consider the most complex factor: the ambiance and the subjective nature of this question has to take into consideration; the time, place and people in the equation.

My initial approach to understanding wines was to learn the different regions, so, taking a similar tack with the regional styles should, in my opinion, lead to the inclusion of the other pertinent factors, hopefully with some final conclusion to sure-bet wines that enhance the barbecue experience.  It is difficult to spend over seventeen years as a fine wine consultant without developing an affinity for fine food as well, and my girth is testament to that!

First in this series, we’re heading south, to Texas, where we find some variation from the classic Kansas City style that so many folks are familiar with.

  • First, the meat is usually smoked over mesquite wood rather than hickory. This is merely due to the local availability of each wood.  The mesquite adds a bit of a spice note to the meat not found in hickory.
  • Second, the meat is smoked ‘naked’ meaning no sauce preparation is applied during the cooking process. The sauce is either served alongside the meat, or ladled on just before serving.
  • Third, the sauce itself is a tomato based sauce, similar to Kansas City sauce, but it tends to be less sweet and much spicier.    

One thing I have learned over time is that hot spicy food preparations and oak aged wines are not very compatible. So my first recommendation is to avoid oak aged wines

Since beef is the main protein featured in Texas barbecue, and everything is bigger in Texas, I recommend big reds that are made to accentuate their fruit character.  Some Italian reds would fit this profile such as a Barbera D’Asti, but my tendency would be to focus on the ‘fruit forward’ styles of red wines predominantly made in the western and southern hemispheres. 

For brisket, a nice Zinfandel is a good match, or a California Central Coast blend, many which feature four to five different wines. For the ribs I am thinking a Petite Sirah or a substantial Shiraz from Australia. Also look for Chilean Carmenere in an unoaked style. You need the substantial body to pair with the big flavors of the beef ribs.

Pair your Beef Brisket with Zinfandel

The other predominant meat is a large smoked sausage, the character of which can vary greatly. Suffice it to say it will be spicy. Just how spicy only a taste will tell, so this is often a difficult pairing.  For this category I would recommend something with a hint of sweetness. The residual sugar in the wine will cool the fire of the spice in the sausage and the sauce itself. The challenge is to find a red wine with that profile.  If you have a well rounded wine shop in your area, you could ask for a late-harvest style of Cabernet.

I get some of these from South Africa, Australia and Chile; however the true masters of full body reds with a nice fruity finish are the Eastern Europeans, specifically the Romanians and the Hungarians.


A Full-Bodied Hungarian Merlot

The wines they make are well balanced, full of body and certainly on the sweet side but they are not widely distributed unless you are doing business with a specialty broker such as myself (wink wink)! They will cool the fire, but yet have the body and character to pair with the meat.

One other rather out of the box recommendation would be a German Late Harvest Spatlese, since one of the components in most Texas sausage is some pork and the heat is ever present. This type of wine would be a pleasant accompaniment particularly on a deck in the middle of summer.

The most important thing is to trust your own palate, as it will never lead you astray. For hints and tips on how to make Texas style barbecue visit my buddy, Bubba Q, over at  The Smokin’ BBQ Pit.

My next stop on this virtual tour of barbecue and wine will be in Memphis, and if Elvis likes it you know it has to be good!

I welcome your questions and comments. Operators are standing by, so drop me a note at my blog,  Pat The Wine Guy.

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