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Red Wine Ribs


Summertime can mean only one thing: barbecue. Whether it’s succulent brisket, tender, smoky chicken or falling-off-the-bone ribs, barbecue is just about the best food you can eat on a sunny day, and my personal favorite is without a doubt ribs, especially if I get to enjoy it with a great glass of wine.


Ice cold beer or even iced tea might be traditional choices for barbecue, but nothing snuggles up to low and slow like a full-bodied rich red wine, especially if you also use it to make a brilliant barbecue sauce to finish off your meat.

I recommend something with plenty of fruit and a decent amount of tannin to stand up to rich rib meat. If you want to go with as much fruit as possible, Sommelier Select Old Vine Merlot will deliver rich black cherry fruit, and it you're looking for a little bit leaner and more tannic wine, Sommelier Select Italian Nebbiolo will be spectacular.

A word on barbecue for our international readers: cooking meat on a grill or over charcoal is grilling, not barbecue. You'll need to cook your ribs over a smoky wood fire at less than 250 degrees for many hours. This gives you a beautiful smoky flavor and aroma and a glorious color. If you're not sure, ask someone from the US South. (Pro-Tip: don't ask people from Texas about grilling pork, and don't ask people from the Carolinas about tomato-based sauces. Or do, if you like lively conversation.)


My own barbecue setup is a gas grill. I line the first burner strip with aluminum foil and layer on wood chips. You can use specialty chips from the grocery or home store, but I always save my winemaking oak chips and cubes, dry them out on a baking sheet and use them for smoking--works great, has fantastic flavor, and I'm not wasting anything.

With only the front burner running, I'm able to regulate the temperature to just about exactly 250F and I get a really decent smoke amount on the ribs.


For the rib rub:
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup paprika (I sometimes use 50% smoked paprika. It's not cheating, it's delicious)
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 1 tablespoon ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper (I use lots more, but I like pain along with my pleasure)
Mix all ingredients in a bowl and apply to your ribs. Pat on as much as will stick and get them on your prepared grill right away. Smoke condenses best on cold meat, so rub them as soon as they come out of the refrigerator and get them smoking before they warm up.


While your ribs are slowly turning into precious meaty gold, make up your basting sauce.


In a small saucepan, sauté half a sweet onion cut to a small dice and 2 cloves of crushed garlic in a tablespoon of vegetable oil until completely softened, about 10-12 minutes.

Mix in:
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 cup red wine
Bring to a simmer and reduce until it forms a rich, sticky sauce, about 15 minutes. Be careful not to scorch it. Set aside and allow to cool completely.


When your ribs are tender and done open the grill, crank up the heat and mop them with your sauce. Allow to caramelize until bubbling, and then you're ready to eat.


Serve with the usual: corn on the cob, coleslaw, baked potatoes, etc. but don't forget plenty of your red wine. When paired with the ribs you'll be able to pick out the wine you used from the sauce--a great taste experience.

And if it's hot where you are, don't be shy about serving your red cool, or even popping it into an ice bucket--it's more refreshing, and it will bring up the tannin a bit more, making it show the ribs who's boss in the pairing.

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