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Barbeque … and Wine?

Written by MJ Reporter Mikey Consbruck

Move over sweet tea, lemonade, and beer. You have some competition.

As I sit here writing this the second week of September, the temperature in Los Angeles is forecasted to hover in the high 90s and low 100s for the next five days, so it feels more like the middle of summer. When I think about summer, I am reminded of the Fourth of July, going to the lake, Labor Day, cookouts with friends, and that usually means barbecue!

While most of us are predisposed to think about a cold beer, lemonade, or a sweet tea when thinking of barbecue, I offer yet another option. Wine. Red Wine. You might think that red wine on a hot day with the grill fired up seems a little (or a lot) out of place, but some excellent varietals pair phenomenally with barbecue.

Two remarkably similar varietals, Primitivo, and Zinfandel, are excellent choices when talking about great wine pairings with barbecue. Some might think Primitivo and Zinfandel are the same varietal, but they are different. Both grapes are clones from an older varietal called Crljenak, originally a Croatian varietal. Primitivo and Zinfandel can have a smoky or ashy quality on the nose as well as notes of prune, plum, or raisin. On the palate, the varietals display a ripe fruit-forward experience with such notes as raisin, plum or prune, and a more viscous feeling on the mouth and finish. Some can be a little lighter on the palate with more subtle fruit notes. Others can have a spicy characteristic hitting the back of the palate and throat with a pleasant white pepper zing as the wine finishes. All these characteristics may be present in the wine, or some might be driven or dominated by one distinct element with the others taking a lesser role. Typically, these characteristics are guided by the winemaker and his or her process.

A third wine that I think pairs amazing with food off the grill is Cabernet Franc. The granddaddy of cabernet, this varietal whether from France, South America, or California, has beautiful notes of ash and smoke with deep dark red fruits such as black currant. If you enjoy smoked meats or a smoky flavor (liquid smoke) on your food when using the grill, treat yourself to a bottle of Cabernet Franc. This wine is definitely for those who enjoy a more earthy wine with smooth, silky tannins, but not as much fruit as the Zinfandel or Primitivio. Some may think of those wines as “sweet” and the Cabernet Franc as “dry,” but that is a whole different story for another day.

Memphis, Texas, Carolinas, and Kansas City style barbecues are the most well-known types, with other regionally popular styles taking a different approach to the more mainstream barbecue. The versatility of

and Zinfandel makes them perfect for spicy or sweet flavors. The ashy or smoky notes on the nose of the cabernet franc lends perfectly for smoked meats and flavors. The rich notes of deep ripe fruit such as raisin and prune from the Zinfandel and Primitivio pair beautifully with Kansas City-style barbecue, as it is sweeter. Pork ribs drenched in a Kansas City-style sauce and a smoky, rich fruit primitivo happens to be my favorite. The peppery finish of the varietals pairs very well with a Carolina style of pulled pork. The combination brings out the spice of both the meat and wine while the rich fruit helps put the fire out in your mouth. Texas-style, with its mesquite driven flavor, falls in the middle of spicy and sweet, making for a perfect match with the more medium-bodied Primitivo and Zinfandels.

Primitivo, Zinfandel, and Cabernet Franc will make barbecue lovers rethink their choice of beverage. Rather than simply washing down your food with traditional favorites, think about how your drink can enhance the barbecue experience.

For more information about Primitivo, Zinfandel, or Cabernet Franc, or to taste some excellent examples of each, contact V Wine Room in West Hollywood. And remember, life is too short for bad wine…sip in good health!

Medicare Jet-Setters give Barbeque and Wine a groovy rating.

For more information about the V Wine Room in West Hollywood and Mikey Consbruck, go to

For more information about the V Wine Lounge in Palm Springs, California, go to

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V Wine Room

903 Westbourne Drive, West Hollywood, CA 90069


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