[At the Bulleit Bourbon Canadian National Championships, I sat as a judge for the Cork & Pork event. Here contestants must show the best pairing showcasing their BBQ Pulled Pork and Ravenswood Zinfandel Vintners Blend 2012]
In previous years, the winners of both the Pork Butt event and the Cork & Pork competition have been the same. This year, the winners are different. I meet the winner of the Pork Butt-only competition at work that evening, Larry. “I’m a cook. I don’t understand what it is you do! What are you looking for?” Larry wants advice on how to win the Cork & Pork event as well.
What do we look for when we pair BBQ with Zinfandel? Sommelier Eric Blouin explains the pairing this way. “If there is too much of everything, it doesn’t work. I look at the sweetness versus the spice from the BBQ and translate that with the fruit versus the acidity in the wine. When it doesn’t work, you lose the taste of the wine. It turns out to be grape juice. Or, it turns perfectly good pork into being bland.”
Larry, I will use that funny word that winos throw out inveterately – balance. We are looking for balance.
If you want to see how well your pulled pork pairs with Zinfandel. Go to the liquor store and buy Zinfandels from a few producers. Buy the ones that have the lowest alcohol available, nothing over 14.5%. The higher the alcohol, the hotter the spice in your BBQ recipe. It may throw things out of wack. Get a few foodies together and try them with your pork. See how they enhance, clash, change the way they taste together. Then, you can alter your recipe to ‘sing’ when its eaten with Ravenswood Zinfandel.
And although Eric drinks Zinfandel when he has a BBQ, I’d generally go for a beer with mine. So, do what you do best, Larry. Make the greatest dang BBQ pulled pork you know how! Does it really matter how it pairs?
And pat yourself on the back for your great win. Congratulations!