Barbecue Lover's 'Go-To' Wine

Summertime favorites with character

By Bruce Cochran

Hello Everyone,

Let’s explore the unique and fascinating world of barbecue from a wine lover’s perspective. 

I love experiencing how wood has been used in cooking, from planking with oak, alder and cedar both here and in Canada, to grapevine embers in southwest France, to the expert asadores in Argentina to wood fired ovens in both Italy and homes of the antebellum South.  

 Professionals on the U.S. barbecue circuit often use small amount of pecan, cherry, apple or even sassafras wood, with or instead of hickory, to smoke meats. Sometimes there seems to be a parallel with aging wines in different types of wood barrels. It also reminds me of the different types of barrels used in aging traditional balsamic vinegar.

Try a new wine this week! 



Peachy Canyon’s ‘Incredible Red’ Zinfandel


As a certified barbecue judge (no kidding), I never get tired of talking about the South’s favorite summer pastime. As a wine lover, I’m glad it tastes great with some of my favorite wines.

To some, barbecue means “throw it on the grill,” but to competition barbecuers it means cooking over indirect heat, “low and slow.” 

Low cooking temperatures for extended periods of time results in tender, “fall off the bone” ribs and shoulders. 

Varying degrees of wood, usually hickory or pecan, create additional flavors. Often, cherry, peach or apple wood is used for brief periods, something akin to minerality or different barrel regimes in wine.

What kind of wines go with this delicacy among delicacies? Aside from “red wines” two considerations are: We usually barbecue in the summertime, when lighter wines, or at least wines that are less tannic and oaky usually show best, and red wine lovers want some character, not something insipid, even in warm weather.

Combining these two ideals gives us a red wine from a grape variety that offers hearty, robust flavors, but a wine made in a style that emphasizes fruit over backbone. By backbone I mean oak, tannin, earthiness — things other than fruit.

One of my all-time favorite wines with summer barbecues is California zinfandel. 

They can be made in a variety of styles, from many parts of California, but choosing one I’d say something from Paso Robles on California’s Central Coast. After all, it’s home to the annual zinfandel festival. Plus, wines from Paso Robles seem to really highlight the flavor of the grape.

One zin I’ve enjoyed over the years is from a winery named Peachy Canyon. I especially like a simple, straightforward bottling they call “Incredible Red.” It retails for around $15, sometimes less. The style is fruit-centered, with lots of the brambleberry flavors associated with the grape, and little else in the way of oak and tannin to interfere.

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