Pitmaster Pat Martin on the Best Wines to Pair With Barbecue

Before you grab that beer, read what an expert says about how well vino goes with food off the grill

July 25, 2022 7:06 am
Wine glass next to BBQ
This summer, know exactly what to pair with your BBQ

In Pat Martin’s newest cookbook Life Of Fire: Mastering The Arts of Pit-Cooked Barbecue, The Grill, And The Smokehouse, there’s a photo of the pitmaster leaning against an old Yeti cooler in a pickup truck with several bottles of wine. It wasn’t a staged image, but it’s an important one to Martin nonetheless: it looks so natural you might wonder if you should have been drinking wine with barbecue this entire time. And that was the point. It’s a message of accessibility and of challenging long-held stereotypes of both barbecue and masculinity. If you’re seeking out a phenomenal meal, why wouldn’t you have it with a glass of wine, barbecue included? And why can’t masculinity look like a glass of wine? Martin makes what he calls “a case for wine” in the book, and we couldn’t agree more. Here, he shares with InsideHook his favorite wine pairings for a variety of meats. Your summer barbecue just got so much better. 

Pitmaster Pat Martin
Pitmaster Pat Martin
Pat Martin

What to Drink With Pork

Carignan has this flavor and this backbone, but it’s not too much. It goes so well with pork, man. Most people want a Pinot Noir with pork, so think about that look, that grape, that degree of translucence. But most Pinot Noir is obviously on the sweeter side, and I don’t want that with fat. It’s the same as having an overly sweet barbecue sauce, which is what all grocery store barbecue sauces are. And what you’re doing with that, to use that sauce analogy, is you’re making it about the sauce not the food because that’s what you’re tasting. God forbid, cabs and all those big jammy things. If it’s a drier Pinot Noir from Hungary or somewhere in France, those tend to do better with pork. I don’t want anything that’s sweet and jammy because it dominates the pork. Carignan, on the other hand, has the same great profile, but it’s much drier, it’s cleaner. Frankly, it washes. That’s what I’m looking for. I want to start with that sip, chase it with the sandwich, and it’s just one after the other, that ongoing volley, so to speak, and I think Carignan’s incredible with it. A really great brut rose or a pet nat is incredible with whole hog pit barbecue because it’s more subtle, the smoke is more subtle. Smoke is truly looked at like it’s an ingredient, so in that case you can go to a lighter wine, a crisper wine. We can sit there and you’re cleaning your palate every time but it’s also blooming your palate, opening it up for that next bite.

Cheeseburger in smoke
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What to Drink With Beef

For brisket, we’re gonna go heavier. I’m still staying away from cabs and zins and all that. Syrah and beef, I’d love it. Beef and brisket is super fatty and rich, a lot richer than pork. Pork fat is rich, but in an ironic way it doesn’t just sit on you. Beef fat will just sit and coat your palate. You’ve got to keep that acidity coming in there and I think a syrah does the same thing for beef that carignan does for pork. It’s strong enough, it cuts that frickin’ fat off your palate, it’s also not overly sweet. It doesn’t have the jamminess effect a big cab has. And it’s not a popular grape, but merlot is the same thing to me. Everybody wants to beat up on merlot because of Sideways [laughs]. It’s so stupid. It’s still a good grape, man, we’re not gonna kick it to the curb. Avoid these big huge tannic cabs. You already got tannins on the frickin’ brisket because of the wood. I don’t want to add more tannins and when you add all the jamminess, we get back to the sweet sauce analogy. And now your wine’s dominating. That’s not what you want, you want it to complement. 

What to Drink With Turkey and Chicken

Turkey’s boring. I’ll have a bottle of good Coca-Cola with turkey. Because usually in barbecue we only cook the breast, it really is pretty boring. We call it a veto vote. Listen, I love to eat my turkey. But it’s to a point where I’m not really looking to pair it with anything. Chicken, on the other hand, is way more complex because of the fat in there. I mean, there’s very few things that taste better than chicken that’s been cooked over a live fire. I don’t know why you’d do anything else other than a big bottle of brut champagne. You gotta have something that’s going to, first of all, not dominate what you’re eating. It’s going to enhance and complement, but also clean your palate. I want you to have that first bite over and over again. You need a wine to help that happen. I wouldn’t do a Prosecco, they’re too sweet. Just a really great brut champagne. I would also say really good dry riesling, like a French riesling. You want the chicken still to be the star. And you’ve got to have something that blooms but also cleans your palate. I think a good dry riesling with turkey and chicken actually, may help the frickin’ turkey not be so boring.


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