This final special edition focuses on wine pairing with standard-issue beef brisket from the dining facility, supplemented with a variety of sauces sent by friends and loved ones from the undisputed barbecue capital of the United States, [insert your preferred city/state here]. To match this saucy meat, let us remain domestic for our wine and select a petit verdot from Virginia. This late-ripening varietal is best known as a minor blending grape in Bordeaux, where a small percentage adds structure and complexity to the cabernet sauvignon-based cuvées of the Médoc. It is used in a similar manner in red blends throughout much of the wine producing world, but its frequent expression as a mono-varietal wine in the northern hemisphere is unique to Virginia. It invariably has assertive tannins, as well as dark fruits and elements of leather and tar.
But what white to serve with this red meat and peppery sauce? Midway between and to the east of the northern and southern Rhône sits a mountainous area called Die. Here, sparkling wines are the predominant vinous product. They can be made using the traditional method of a second fermentation in the bottle under the name Crémant de Die, or using a much older technique, the méthode ancestrale. This latter method involves a slow fermentation at relatively cold temperatures, where the wine is bottled before the process is complete. Fermentation then continues in the bottle, and terminates before all the sugar has converted to alcohol, leaving some degree of residual sweetness. This méthode dioise ancestrale produces Clairette de Die, a blend of at least 75% muscat à petits grains, with the balance being clairette, although the wine could be entirely muscat with no clairette at all. The bit of residual sugar will help to subdue the red pepper heat of the many spicy sauces for the brisket, and the low alcohol and low serving temperature make this a refreshing accompaniment to eating brisket outdoors on a hot day in the desert.
Complementary Pairing: Petit Verdot, Virginia, USA
Try: Linden Petit Verdot
[www.lindenvineyards.com] Jim Law is one of the modern-day founding fathers of high quality viticulture and winemaking in Virginia. The petit verdot (and just a dash of cabernet sauvignon) come primarily from his own Hardscrabble estate, with small additions from the nearby cooler Avenius and somewhat warmer Boisseau vineyards. His efforts in the cellar are decidedly Old World, with a cold soak of twice-triaged and destemmed grapes, followed by fermentation with natural yeasts, when he utilizes both pigeage and remontage, for a total of four weeks. The wine is transferred to used oak barrels for the malolactic fermentation and aging for more than a year and a half before being bottled without filtration or fining. Expect aromas of smoke and earth, with black fruits and firm tannins on the palate. While potentially a bit rustic in its youth, allowing this wine to develop for a few years in the bottle will offer you a truly sublime experience. Thomas Jefferson would be proud.
Contrasting Pairing: Clairette de Die, Rhône, France
Try: Jaillance Clairette de Die Cuvée Impériale
[www.jaillance.com] Although there are small independent producers in this rather obscure region, a good place to start is with its largest cooperative, where you have a reasonable chance of encountering the wines as exports. As this is one of their top cuvées, the best grape selections from over 200 members should find their way into the bottle. This is a typical formula of 80% muscat, with clairette as the remainder. Citrus and golden fruits predominate, and the slightly sweet finish will serve to put out the fire of the BBQ sauce.