Monday, May 15, 2006
Bubbles & Barbecue
The other day I was talking with Bill Niman, the man behind the Niman (nigh-man)Ranch line of meats raised without growth hormones or antibiotics. His meat has that old-fashioned taste and you feel good knowing you're not eating who-knows-what. The last time I was in Oakland, we drove up to Bo's Barbecue in Lafayette and pigged out on ribs made with Niman's naturally raised meats. Anyway, I asked Bill what kind of wines he liked to drink with barbecue. I got an answer I didn't expect: "Lambrusco. It's making a comeback," he said. "There are some expensive ones, but the cheap stuff is good too."
Really??? He's got good taste, but I figured I'd do some research. Apparently he wasn't kidding. Now that the bad publicity from watery and overly sweet wines, Lambrusco's image in the US is being revived. They're even serving it at tony New York restaurants like Mario Batali's Babbo. Though they're drier wines, not the typical grocery store stuff.
So passing through the wine aisle at discount grocery store, I grabbed a bottle of Riunite Lambrusco. The next day, I heated up the last of my dad's own delicious pork barbecue ribs and tasted it with two wines: the Riunite Lambrusco and Il Rosso, a gently sparkling red wine made by Mionetto. The whole Il line is really fun with sexy packaging and marketing.
Of course, there was not much comparison, other than the fact that both were red wines with bubbles. And then they are both from Italy and relatively low in alcohol. The Il Rosso tasted of juicy red berries, more so than a typical rose, but with a hint of sweetness. The Riunite (shown with the ribs) was grapey-berry tasting and sweet, with a flavor that didn't linger long. Going back and forth, I decided Il Rosso's more subtle flavor was better with ribs sans sauce, and the super fruity Lambrusco was more suited to saucy ribs.
But I could see how either one would be mighty nice with a plate of barbecued pork ribs.