Sunday night, we came home from a day out on the boat, and upon exiting the vehicle were greeted with a heavenly aroma effusing throughout the neighbourhood. It smelled sweet, like fresh-baked maple donuts or cotton candy. We saw smoke emanating from our neighbours’ place and saw that they had their charcoal grill going. We went over to explore and they showed us what smelled so amazing: RIBS. They had been smoking them for five hours, and were just about ready.
They were nice enough to offer to bring some over since they had more than they needed. I was very excited because a) I never make ribs and b)I had a bottle of The Show Cabernet Sauvignon open and I figured this would make an excellent pairing.
When the ribs arrived, we sat down and tasted them. Oh my gosh, they were AMAZING. Our minds were blown. The husband mentioned that if he weren’t already married to me, he’d propose to our neighbour John, that’s how good they were. The meat was super tender and flavourful, and slightly sweet with a punch of spiciness at the end.
The Show Cabernet Sauvignon* is a great bbq wine from Napa. Though cab sauvs are generally full-bodied wines, I’d say this one is more medium-full bodied. It’s very fruity and spicy on the nose, with evidence of oak (vanilla aromas). On the palate, this dry wine has notes of raspberry and plum, as well as some of the vanilla from the nose. Tannins are medium to high, and the alcohol took a while to dissipate. It’s a wine that should breathe before you drink it.
This is a great wine for barbecued steak, so with my simplified reasoning, I figured that ribs was close enough to steak for this to be a great match.
I had taken a sip of the wine before dinner, and though we had opened the bottle the night before, it still tasted great. The ribs were so meaty that it took me a few minutes to get through just one. After finishing the first rib, I stopped to take a breather and savour the flavour explosion in my mouth. You know when the food is so good you forget about your wine? I cleaned off my hands and took a sip. It was not good. The wine seemed almost sour. Despite being a medium-to-full bodied wine, it did NOT even come close to standing up to the ribs. Plus the tannins really exacerbated the spiciness of the rib sauce, setting off the taste bud fire alarm. It was almost painful.
Theoretically, smooth sweet whites are a typical pairing with spicy food. But I just wasn’t feeling it. I now wonder what would have happened had we simply chilled The Show. Would the slight tweak have helped cool our taste buds? I think a smoother red with less tannin, like a zinfandel, would also have worked.
However, we had none of these wines in the house and the LCBO was closed (why must all LCBOs close at 5 on Sundays? Why??)
The only thing left to do was dip into the beer we had in the fridge. And you know what? It was AWESOME. First, the fact that it was cold helped soothe the burning taste buds. Secondly, it had enough flavour to stand up to the ribs. Innis and Gunn to the rescue! If you’ve never tried this beer, I highly recommend it, and I’m not much of a beer drinker! It’s a Scottish craft beer that is aged in oak barrels, so of course I’m going to like it. It has many of the same oaky flavour components I love in oaked wines: vanilla, caramel, butterscotch and toffee. This perceived sweetness in the beer actually brought out the sweeter elements of the ribs. It was really a mutually beneficial pairing, with the wine complementing the food, and the food complementing the wine. A serendipitous evening, all in all!
*The Show, which can be found in the general listing section, is on sale at the LCBO until September 13. At $2 off a bottle, it’s a great time to try this wine! Perfect with steak off the bbq (not so great with ribs).