I’m a rib connoisseur. I live for a good PORK rib…none of that beef stuff!
My love for ribs runs very deep! I come from a barbecue family—even my grandmother can get down on the grill, so I grew up eating ribs. And moving away from home meant missing out on those family barbecues. I swear I shed a tear every time I FaceTime my family and they’re barbecuing.
I’ve searched high and low for the perfect rib, but Texas barbecue hasn’t really wowed me (yet). Luckily, I found an adoptive family that makes THEE best Alabama style ribs, which used to hold me over until I made it home to California. But, then they abandoned me (j/k if you ever read this) and I was left to my own devices again. Last month, my favorite wine bar 13 Celsius hosted a pop-up with Feges BBQ. It was cool because they pulled a handful of their wines for customers to purchase and pair with the different dinner plates. This got me thinking again about the perfect rib and wine pairing.
I know I did a sip + grill post last year, but I wanted to circle back and “make it plain” like they say in the good old baptist church. It’s a general rule that red wines pair very well with barbecue-grilled meats. Mainly because the savory taste and high fat in the meat will balance out the tannins in red wine. But, this time I wanted to take it a step further. There’s an art to making ribs followed by the fact there are many different styles. With this post, I really want to provide a cheat sheet so to speak, so that you can really look at the type of ribs you’re making and know what wines will complement those flavors. Keep reading because with these tips, you’ll feel even more confident selecting the right wine to pair with your ribs this summer.
Ribs + Wine Pairing
BBQ Style: Carolina-style barbecue traditionally highlights an array of pork cuts that are slow-cooked over hardwood like hickory while being basted in a sweet, tangy vinegar-based sauce. Some styles of Carolina barbecue (South Carolina, generally) also feature mustard in the sauce.
Suggested Wines: Red or pink wines with enough acidity to match the overt vinegar-based sauces. For example, this heavy reliance on pork accented by tangy sauce makes this style of barbecue particularly well-suited for French rosés, either sparkling or still. Or you can try medium-bodied Italian reds like Chianti and Barbera, which also complement the richness of the pork and the tanginess of the sauce without overpowering the rib.
BBQ Style: KC is known for their barbecue! Queue DJ Khalid and just ask my cousin. She’ll let you know who’s the best. This style of barbecue is hallmarked by its wide and varied use of different meats to include pork, beef, chicken, sausage. But, when it comes to ribs they’re known for being slow-smoked over a variety of woods, but most often hickory. And with Kansas City ribs, it’s all about the sauce! These famous ribs are served with a thick, smokey tomato-based sauce that’s usually sweet and spicy.
Suggested Wine: For beef or pork, try Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec or Zinfandel—wines with red or dark fruits and a hint of pepper and spice to balance the smokey rub on these ribs.
BBQ Style: Memphis’ main focus is pork when it comes to ribs. The ribs generally go one of two directions: either dry-rubbed or “wet.” Dry ribs are coated with a spice rub before they’re cooked; wet ribs have been sauced before smoking.
Suggested Wine: Dry-rubbed pork calls for a thirst-quenching white with perhaps a dash of residual sugar to tame the spice, like Riesling, Chenin Blanc, and Gewurztraminer. If a red is more your style, consider medium-bodied reds like Tempranillo or Chianti.
A new heavy hitter in my book and the very reason for this post. As I mentioned earlier, I recently tried Fege’s pork ribs and they were AMAZING! The best ribs I’ve had in Houston and they’re not any Texas style. I think it’s the rub, but I think it’s safe to say that I’m a new fan of St. Louis style ribs.
BBQ Style: Pork spare ribs grilled and covered in a sweet, acidic and sticky sauce.
Suggested Wine: High acid reds like Grenache and Sangiovese because their bright fruit acidity pairs well with the slightly acidic sweetness of this town’s bbq sauce.
BBQ Style: Texas is the land of the longhorn cattle, so it’s no surprise that Texas barbecue is traditionally beef-based. The meats are often smoked pit-style over mesquite wood, and an unsweetened, thinner vinegar-based sauce served is alongside to wet the meat. Unlike Carolina or Kansas City styles, which feature signature sauces, Texas barbecue is often served “dry.”
Suggested Wine: The smoky depths of the beefy style makes it a perfect pairing for more structured, bolder reds like Zinfandel, Malbec, and Cabernet Sauvignon. Or you could even go with a red with some smokiness like a Syrah.
If you find yourself doing your own thing when it comes to barbecuing ribs, remember to look for a balance of fruit and oak in the wine to balance with the smoke and spice on the meat. This combo always makes for a good barbecue and wine pairing. At the end of the day you can never go wrong with a Zinfandel or even a Lambrusco…those are always fun. I hope you find these tips helpful for your next barbecue. Now excuse me while I go daydream about my next rib encounter.
Until next time…glasses up!