Brisket, burgers, chicken, and sausage are all popular Labor Day foods worthy of a slathering of BBQ sauce. It's a given. A ritual. You are going to consume some foods cooked low and slow sometime during Labor Day weekend. BBQ sauce will be involved, too.
Choosing a wine to accompany your BBQ depends, not on type of wood, rub, or cut of meat, but on the sauce that's selected.
There are several styles of American BBQ sauces which include one or more of the following core, BBQ ingredients; mustard, pepper, sugar, tomato, and vinegar.
Different mixtures of these ingredients have come to define regional BBQ in the United States.
Eastern-style, whole-hog BBQ, is served with a vinegar-dominated dip. This sauce is mopped on the hog as it cooks.
Another vinegar flavor comes from the mustard-based BBQ sauces found all over the Carolinas, which are referred to as "Carolina Gold." There's a rich, tangy flavor in the sauce that compliments the mostly-shoulder pulled pork prepared there.
Usually runny in consistency and sweet-and-sour in taste, Memphis and St. Louis style BBQ include a combo of tomato, vinegar and pepper. To finish the meat, it's simmered in the sauce.
Kansas City BBQ is defined by a sugary, tomato-rich sauce that goes on thick.
In Texas, BBQ sauce contains meat drippings in addition to southwest spices, black pepper, and fresh onion. There's no sugar and only a trace of tomato found in Texas BBQ sauces.
Not new to the list, but very regional, mayonnaise, or white BBQ sauce is found in specific parts of Alabama. The consistency ranges from a thick dressing to a thin drizzle. The unique blend of creamy, tangy, and peppery flavors has cemented its status as a regional BBQ signature.
Florida is new to the BBQ map. The sauce that's popular there is a combination of Memphis-style and Kansas City-style sauces infused with tropical flavors like mango, guava, papaya, and pineapple.
Now that we're clear on BBQ sauce types, let's get to the wine suggestions.
For Eastern-Style BBQ, try wine varietal recommendations of: Barbera, Sangiovese, or Off-Dry Riesling.
For Mustard-Style BBQ or "Carolina-Gold", try wine varietal recommendations of: Syrah, Zinfandel, or Pinot Grigio.
For Memphis-Style BBQ, try wine varietal recommendations of: Merlot, Rose, or Pinot Noir.
For White BBQ found in Alabama, try wine varietal recommendations of: Gamay or Vouvray.
For Kansas City-Style BBQ, try wine varietal recommendations of: Syrah, Zinfandels, or Paso Robles blends.
For Texas-style BBQ, try wine varietal recommendations of: Cabernet, Tempranillo, Syrah, or a Chilled Pinot Noir.
Avoid delicate wines with BBQ. That would be a waste.
Choose a wine that matches the weight of the BBQ that you will be consuming. Weight of the BBQ includes things like fat content of meat, if meat is mopped or not, and amount of sauce used on final product.
Now it's time to light the smoker, sit back, and chill.