Pulled pork pairs best with easy-drinking red wines such as Pinot Noir, Merlot, Pinotage and Zinfandel. If you’re in the mood for a white wine, choose a crisp and refreshing white wine such as Riesling, Verdelho or a Semillon/Sauvignon Blanc blend.
Pulled Pork is made from the pork shoulder, which is fatty and full of connective tissue. Cooking pork shoulder requires a long cooking time to break down the connective tissue. As such, pulled Pork is often slow-cooked for hours in a smoker until the meat can be easily pulled apart. Smoking and any BBQ sauces or rubs used on the Pork will impart plenty of earthy and rich flavours into the meat.
Pinotage is a South African red wine that is a mid-bodied but inky-black wine. Bursting with rich black cherry, plum, raspberry, and blackberry flavours, Pinotage pairs well with Pulled Pork’s smoky and rich flavours. The medium-bodied nature of Pinotage matches the weight of the slow-cooked pork shoulder meat, while the fruit flavours of the wine offer plenty of refreshment. Heavier reds, like Cabernet Sauvignon, Left-Bank Bordeaux and Shiraz, will drown out those delicious smoked pork flavours.
Pinotage also has subtle notes of red licorice, menthol, fig and savoury meat flavours, followed by a sweet, smoky finish. This unique profile of flavours complements the sweet and earthy flavours found in Pulled Pork and any sauces or spices used in the cooking process.
Pinotage is made in a full-bodied style, however, for this pairing to work, you’ll want to ensure you use a medium-bodied Pinotage!
Pinot Noir & Pulled Pork Pairing
It might seem odd to pair a delicate Pinot Noir, which can sometimes be expensive, with Pulled Pork, which comes from an inexpensive cut of Pork. However, this pairing is amazing. Pinot Noir is a light and fruity red featuring irresistible flavours of cherries and wild field strawberries, which offers a pleasant contrast to the juicy pork flavours of Pulled Pork.
Pinot Noir also has an earthy side, where you can expect forest floor notes, mushroom and barnyard. These flavours complement Pulled Pork’s rich and savoury flavours nicely, making for an incredibly harmonized pairing. If your Pulled Pork is slathered with BBQ sauce, I’d suggest skipping on the Pinot Noir, as these sugary and spicy sauces will overpower this delicate but delicious red wine.
Zinfandel & Pulled Pork Pairing with BBQ sauce
For Pulled Pork dishes smothered in BBQ sauce, Zinfandel is your red wine to saddle up with. Zinfandel typically has softer tannins and moderate alcohol and is bursting with plum, cherry, blueberry and cranberry fruit flavours. You also get a bit of spice, licorice and black pepper, followed by a smoky finish, making Zinfandel wonderful with anything slathered in BBQ sauce.
There are different levels of Zinfandel; some are light and fruity to others that are bold and powerful. As the meat is somewhat tender and delicate for Pulled Pork, you want a medium-bodied Zinfandel as the delicate pork flavours will be crushed. Bold Zinfandel pairs best with bold flavoured foods like rich steaks or hearty beef stews.
Riesling & Pulled Pork Pairing
Riesling is an acidic white wine with tangy citrus flavours, and it\’s known to pair with just about anything. Riesling is a good pairing with Pulled Pork because it offers some much-needed refreshment against the savoury and smoky flavours of any spices or barbecue sauces accompanying your dish. Riesling’s zippy acidity also electrifies the more subtle flavours in your pulled pork dish and draws out those delicate flavours you may have never noticed before.
Riesling comes in various styles, from dry to sweet and still to bubbly. I would recommend a dry or off-dry Riesling with Pulled Pork. Off-dry means there is a touch of sweetness, which works well with any sugar in your BBQ sauce.
Verdelho & Pulled Pork Pairing
Verdelho is a white wine ripe with tropical fruit, honeysuckle, and lime pairings. It also has an oily texture that matches the weight and body of Pulled Pork. While Verdelho is commonly paired up with shellfish, particularly freshly shucked oysters, it’s quite versatile with many other foods, such as Pulled Pork.
I love how the tropical fruitiness of Verdelho is a nice contrast to the spiciness of any BBQ sauce your Pulled Pork might be mixed with.
Tropical fruits, like pineapple, are commonly paired with Pork at pig roasts for a good reason: the sharp contrast is incredible. With Verdelho, you get the same effect as the tropical and lime flavours in that they offer a refreshing tang when pitted against the savoury and smoky Pulled Pork meat.
Side note, Verdelho from Madeira and Verdejo (which hails from Spain) are two completely different wines. So pay attention to the spelling if you’re picking a bottle up.
Does Cabernet Sauvignon Pair with Pulled Pork?
No, Cabernet Sauvignon does not pair very well with Pulled Pork. The reason is that Pulled Pork is slowly cooked for hours upon hours so all the connective tissue and fats are broken down. The end result leaves you with a flavourful meat that is earthy, smoky and savoury. However, all of these flavours are subtle and delicate making them easily crushed by the bold flavours of a Cabernet Sauvignon. All you’ll end up tasting is the wine, and not the hours of time you put into creating your Pulled Pork.
Even if you smother your Pulled Pork in a heavy BBQ sauce, Cabernet Sauvignon and Pulled Pork will not work very well. Barbecue Sauces are vinegar based, meaning they are acidic. Cabernet Sauvignon, on the other hand, is heavy in tannin and low in acidity. Wines high in tannin and high acid foods do not pair up very well as the acidity can make the wine taste flat and metallic.