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How to Pair Wine with BBQ

Kelly J. Hayes | July 31, 2019 | Food & Drink Feature

Wine expert Mark Oldman spills his picks for palate-pleasing wines to pair with mouthwatering ribs.

Mark Oldman is a perennial favorite at the Food & Wine Classic.

It is the season of the smoke.

In Aspen, that means it’s time to pair barbecue from the valley’s favorite smokehouses with wines that bring out the best of their most flavorful cuts. From Main Street to Marble, Aspenites are blessed with barbecue restaurants to satiate their carnivorous cravings.

But what to drink? We asked Mark Oldman, wine expert, author of How to Drink Like a Billionaire and popular perennial presenter at the annual Food & Wine Classic in Aspen, what he takes into consideration when pairing red meat and, sometimes, red wine.

“With barbecue, you’re looking for something relatively simple, as the multiplicity of flavors in barbecue can obscure the complexity found in more expensive wines,” he explains. “So I generally advise against serving expensive, complex wines with barbecue. You’re seeking refreshment in the wine, which means avoiding anything too dense or too oaky. Barbecue tends to be rich, and you are looking for a wine that will pierce the density and prepare your palate for the next bite.”

When this expert is getting ready to gnaw on his favorite barbecue, he pours pink. “The single best all-around pairing for any barbecue, but especially the flavors of baby back ribs or pulled pork, is a blushing bubbly. A simple rosé Champagne, or Prosecco, Cava or sparkling wine, will match with the weight of the pork while the bubbles will refresh your mouth and palate.”

The drive to either Snowmass or Marble is worth it for Slow Groovin’ BBQ ribs.


Hickory House has been a Main Street staple since the ’70s. And Paul Dioguardi, a barbecue lifer—he was grilling ribs as a teen in Chicago—has been at the helm for 20 years. His secret is in the source. For the sweet, fall-off-the-bone pork ribs he serves all day, he uses Danish pigs that are raised on a vegetarian diet that includes, get this, tulips. 730 W. Main St., 970.925.2313

Oldman’s pairing Gloria Ferrer Brut Rosé NV
A beautifully made pink bubbly from the Carneros appellation of Napa that won’t break the bank. It’s brimming with crisp, ripe red fruit and a long, creamy finish. Champagne and sparkling wines are a mouthwatering partner for the tender, sauce-slathered ribs.

The smokin’ stylings of Home Team Aspen have captured the community with its Southern ’cue. Fine dining chef Chris Lanter opened the Aspen outpost in 2016, which sits in the shadow of the ski runs at Buttermilk in the Inn at Aspen. Chef Kyle Wilkins brines and rubs Home Team’s racks of St. Louis-cut ribs with brown sugar and chile powder before they hit the heat. The result is a succulent, flavorful rack that can stand up to just about any red wine. 38750 Highway 82, 970.236.2040

Oldman’s pairing Fontanafredda Barbera d’Alba 2017
A nice Barbera like the Fontanafredda is exactly what the pitmaster ordered: affordable, medium-weight, bursting with hints of black cherry and spice that flatters the sweet nature of the pork. Its earthy-smoky dimension harmonizes particularly well with the smoke-infused nature of grilled meats.

Ryan Vinciguerra brought both ribs and an ethos to Marble when he opened Slow Groovin’ BBQ in 2010. Since then they have expanded on their formula with a food truck that regularly travels to events throughout the valley and a second location above the Snowmass Mall that also serves up the signature barbecue. Chef Zack Zelinski recommends The Megatron brisket sandwich. “Our briskets smoke, on average, between 16 to 18 hours. Low and slow is how we get our briskets to tenderize properly,” he says. Open May 1-Oct. 31, 101 W. 1st St., Marble, 970.963.4090; 67 Elbert Lane, Snowmass Village, 970.429.4761

Oldman’s pairing Panther Creek Willamette Valley Winemakers Cuvée 2017
A not-too-heavy style of pinot noir, typical of Oregon, has the perfect balance of flavor and refreshment to handle any dish from the grill. The Panther Creek is light- to medium-bodied with zesty notes of raspberry and tea.


Photography by: Mark Oldman