Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Where There's Smoke, There's Wine: Wine & Barbecue

The word barbecue derives from the word barabicu found in the language of the Taíno people of the Caribbean and the Timucua of Florida, and entered European languages in the form barbacoa. The word translates as "sacred fire pit."[1] The word describes a grill for cooking meat, consisting of a wooden platform resting on sticks. (Wikipedia)

The term today means so many things but by definition a real barbecue involves slow cooking, indirect heat and smoke. I mean, I like to grill too, but that's not a full on barbecue, sorry folks. As a country there are so many different standards for what makes good barbecue. North Carolinians love their vinegar based sauce, typically with pulled pork. In Kansas City the sauces are tomato based, spicy and the types of meat run the gamut, as Kansas City was once the center of the US meat packing industry. For Kentucky, nothing says barbecue like mutton, yup, mutton.  Alabama loves it's barbecued chicken and pork with a mayonnaise and vinegar based sauce. Texas, well don't mess with Texas, and Texans don't mess with sauce. No sir, they love a good brisket in Texas but salt and pepper and the beauty of slow smoky cooking is all that one needs.
And so I arrived at a wine and brisket pairing experience here in Seattle that had been put together by Jameson Fink and "Gentleman" Jack Timmons. I don't think that's actually his nickname but it should be, he's very gentlemanly.  The idea was this, Jack would serve up some smoked brisket and sides and Jameson, myself and a few other local wine and food types would pair up some wines and see how wine would fare with something that seems so beer friendly.

Jameson's blog Wine Without Worry covers the whole world of wine and food and so he decided to bring a mixed bag of European wines and asked me to find a couple Oregon gems that I thought could stand up to Texas and Texas brisket. (Affordable wines in the $20 to $25 range was his charge.) Jack is a tech consultant who is serious about his barbecue, he's Texan after all. He went all in last summer and attended the Barbecue Summer Camp at Texas A&M University.Afterwards Jack procured some serious smokers and has started pop up brisket events all over Seattle in the Seattle Brisket Experience, complete with music and beer.

Jack rolled out two monster sized briskets one Choice Angus and an exotic Wagyu. The briskets were smoked for hours using post oak and mesquite. The brisket was incredibly tender and exuded an essence of pure smoke. Jack gave us all a little history lesson on the barbecue ins and outs and then asked us to dig in.

The history of barbecue in America is a marriage of cooking styles of Native Americans and the foods of Spanish colonists. It was the Spanish who first introduced the pig into the Americas and to the American Indians. The Indians, in turn, introduced the Spanish to the concept of true slow cooking with smoke. The Spanish colonists came to South Carolina in the early 16th century and settled at Santa Elena. It was in that early American colony that Europeans first learned to prepare and to eat "real" barbecue. (Wikipedia)

The Spanish varietal Tempranillo seemed a natural choice, and for Tempranillo you gotta look at Southern Oregon and the folks who basically pioneered Tempranillo in Oregon and the Northwest and that's Abacela.  Earl Jones has made crafting fine Tempranillo his mission and he specially selected sites in the Umpqua Valley to plant his beloved Spanish variety.  

Abacela Tempranillo 2009 The approachable and easy drinking Tempranillo under screwcap had lots of light aromatics in the way of red fruits with hints of dried roses and earth. The flavor profile accents fruit and there's more red fruit flavors in the way of cherry and cranberry, light spice accents and a medium body made this a nice food wine. Not overly structured or tannic the focus here by Abacela was to make a Tempranillo that can be enjoyed early on. For $21 this is a great gateway into the variety for Northwest wine drinkers and into Abacela if you're not familiar.

You can't really be asked to bring an Oregon wine, for food none the less without thinking that Pinot Noir is the natural answer and so of course I packed one of those as well. Pinot Noir is classically the food wine of choice when it comes to the Northwest, outside of maybe Riesling. High acidity, lighter in body and offering a lot of zip and lift in the palate. I knew that with the price range Jameson had set for me it's hard to be the bang for your buck return that the Stoller Vineyards JV Pinot Noir offers at $25. 

Stoller Vineyards Pinot Noir "JV" 2010 This wine was an adept brisket pairing it turned out. Blue fruit and floral aromatics were in line with the reliable elegance of the 2010 vintage in Oregon. A much cooler vintage than recent years that produced very pretty wines with bright acids that are really approachable right now. The early season blackberry flavors along with clove and blueberry delivered prettiness on the palate. Where the Stoller really shined was in it's acid driven zip. The wine really cut through the smoky intensity of the brisket and stood out from the evening's selections. 

Perhaps the biggest surprise of the evening was not that wine and brisket seems such well matched partners but instead it was the stand out quality of a Texas wine. The McPherson Cellars La Herencia a wine from Lubbock for $14 really shined as a barbecue pairing. The wine was a blend of Tempranillo, Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre and Carignan. It's secret weapon, a dab of residual sugar. Sort of reminded you of a slightly sweet barbecue sauce. La Herencia has certainly opened my eyes to Texas wine as something to take seriously.  

These wines were provided as samples.


Post a Comment