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Aug 20, 2008
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Wine With Pulled Pork

by Paul Lukacs and Marguerite Thomas       

It is the last night of our annual summer reunion with a handful of friends.  The past few days have been filled with the usual beach activities -- swimming, tennis, fishing - but for us the best parts of summer vacation are always the long, lazy evenings devoted to good conversation accompanied by terrific food and wine.  Tomorrow we'll drive back home, but on this bittersweet final evening, it's our turn to make dinner.  We are slow-cooking a pork shoulder, which we'll shred and serve with a classic North Carolina-style BBQ sauce.  The tartness of vinegar and tang of spice in the sauce can make this a somewhat challenging dish for wine, but we've brought several different bottles.  As always with this group of friends, there are bound to be heated political and/or philosophical debates around the dinner table, but we don't expect any clashes between the food and the wine.  We made a trial run of the recipe at home a couple of weeks ago and tested it with fifteen different wines, so are confident about what will pair well. 

In some ways the pulled pork in our trial test was more forgiving than we might have thought. Not surprisingly, the accompanying spicy sauce knocked out the potential complexity in a brut sparkling wine, but glasses of cool bubbly are so pleasantly refreshing that they can be a much-appreciated alternative to beer, BBQ's traditional partner.  Rosé also has appeal for its ability to refresh the palate, but for truly great food and wine partnering we found that red wines really hit the mark. 

We pitted our pork against a range of reds, from Tempranillo to Zinfandel, and found that almost all were fine matches.   A Valpolicella was, perhaps, a tad too light for the zesty sauce, and some of the bigger wines (the aforementioned Zinfandel for example) seemed somewhat heavy on a hot and humid night.  The vinegar in the sauce made overtly tannic wines seem even more so, and wines with sweet fruity personalities performed especially well; but by and large, we found that most of the medium to full-bodied red wines we tried were a fine fit for slow-cooked BBQ.    


If you have found any food and wine pairings that particularly please you, let us know so that we can share them with others.  And if there are any dishes or recipes you'd like us to put to the 'wine with' test, do drop us a note at winewith@winereviewonline.com.



Approx. Price



Alcance de Vina Calina, Maule Valley (Chile) Carménère 2006

(Imported by Sovereign Wine Imports)





Distinctive, with dark fruit flavors and herbal undertones, but no excessive green or weedy notes, this is a substantial but not ponderous wine.  It more than held its own with the spicy vinegar sauce.




J. Lohr, Paso Robles (California) Cabernet Sauvignon 'Hilltop Vineyard' 2005





Rich and ripe, with firm tannins, and true varietal character, this impressive Cabernet shone brightly with the pork.  The sauce never made it seem tart, as the fruit flavors tasted bright.




Perrin & Fils, Vinsobres (Rhône Valley, France) 'Les Cornuds' 2006 (Imported by Vineyard Brands)





With the sort of earthy, meaty undertones characteristic of fine southern Rhône, this wine gave added depth to the pork, making the dish taste even more substantial than it did when paired with most other wines.




Parducci Wine Cellars, Mendocino (California) Petite Sirah 'True Grit' 2005





A juicy, succulent Petite, softer than many renditions yet with all the deep, dark flavors characteristic of this Golden State favorite, 'True Grit' never ran any risk of being overshadowed by the pork and vinegar-based sauce.




Yangarra, McLaren Vale (Australia) Grenache/ Shiraz/ Mourvédre 'Cadenzia'

(Imported by Sovereign Wine Imports)




One of the stars of the tasting, this Rhône-styled blend offers peppery undertones in addition to sun-drenched South Australian fruit.  The combination seemed just about perfect with this substantial, spicy barbecue.