From what I’ve been told, I ruffled more than a few feathers with my post from last month on the incongruous nature of pairing big bold (Californian-style) red wine and Texas bbq.
It seems that I had transgressed an absolute held dear by many a Texan: if the pairing is to be wine, it must be a high-alcohol, low-acidity, oaky, concentrated, “fruit bomb” red wine, a style described this week by Master of Wine and widely read wine expert and journalist Jancis Robinson as “California’s late-20th-century love affair with alcohol, oak, sweetness and mass.”
It’s important to keep in mind that “Texas” bbq is unique in the panorama of American bbq because its foundation is smoked meats (mostly beef and primarily brisket) that have been seasoned with dry rub.
In “Memphis” bbq, for example, sweet and tangy vinegar-based sauce is used instead to baste and flavor pork during smoking. In my view, it’s nearly impossible to pair wine with this style of bbq because the sweetness and acidity in the basting sauce, which is often applied liberally after the meat is cooked, overwhelm nearly any wine (in Texas bbq, sauce is an afterthought if applied at all). It’s similar to the oxymoronic pairing of chocolate and red wine, however popular it may be.
I recently returned to the same Houston bbq joint where I offended my comrades, Roegel’s BBQ, for a mandate with a (male) food writer friend.
The 2013 Jurançon Sec by Bru-Baché (made from Gros Manseng in the French Pyrénées, above) was the wine I brought.
In my view and on my palate, this is the style of wine that pairs best with Texas bbq, where the intense smokiness of the meats dominates the flavors.
The rich white and stone fruit and gentle citrus character of this wine, its freshness despite a slightly oxidative note, and — most importantly — its low alcohol at 12.5 percent, make it ideal for pairing with dry rub bbq.
It may be counterintuitive for some but the greatest pairings are based not on resemblance but rather contrast.
Consider how deliciously lemon juice tastes works in fish prepared à la meunière where the fat of the butter and the lean acidity of the citrus accentuate the flavor the fish.
Where the savory flavors and earthiness of my beloved Nebbiolo would be eclipsed by smoky Texas bbq, the Jurançcon delivers brilliantly — just like the lemon in the meunière.
Not only are the wines technically mismatched, but they are also misaligned from a socio-economic perspective.
As bbq authority J.C. Reid (a good friend) wrote in a recent column for the Houston Chronicle, “an ice, cold Lone Star Beer paired with great Texas barbecue is a Houston tradition for a reason: they just go together from both a flavor and a cultural point of view.”
When people cross into the “final frontier,” as Reid has called it, of pairing wine and bbq, they tend to reach for extremes, like the $50 bottle of 15.6 percent alcohol Syrah that someone poured me during my previous meal at the bbq joint. There is nothing delicate about Texas bbq and people tend to love a show-stopping “wow” factor when pairing with wine.
At under $20 a bottle, even the Jurançon could be considered extravagant. But since it’s become the Parzen family’s house wine for the summer of 2015 (hence the dinosaur and apple wedges in the photo above), it seemed just the right choice for my bbq experience the other night. It was perfect…