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Feb 8, 2011 06:12 PM

Pairing challenge.. Venison ragu & pulled pork...Help a relative Newb!?

I'm new to the world of wine pairing (vs. just enjoying) and I'm loving the challenges it brings.

I'm in charge of bringing wine to a weekend getaway that will include the following two meals and would love some suggestions about a great wine.

#1 Venison ragu over some sort of nondescript pasta without filing (spaghetti from a box probably!) This one I am kinf of leaning towards a Sangiovese somewhere hot (tuscany?) as the italians eat a lot of tomato based sauce and have been known to use game in it, and it seems a fit. Any suggestions you think would be better?

#2) Pulled pork.. I mut admit I don't know where to begin.. It's probably going to be sweet and BBQ'Ey (new word!) so umm.. perhaps a full bodied / hot climate blush? I could use some help on that one.

Thanks in advance!

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  1. You might consider a nice Chianti with the pasta dish and with the BBQ'd pulled pork affair, Zinfandel for sure.


    2 Replies
    1. re: Northof9

      Great suggestion, Northof9. However, I would suggest starting with a Merlot with the Venison Ragu, then moving to the Zin for the pulled pork, though for some reason the reverse does have its appeal.

      1. re: Northof9

        I also like a high acid Italian red here, a la Barbera or something Sangio-based, and most definitely Zin.

      2. Thanks! Just to clarify, are you talking a white / rode zinfande?l

        9 Replies
        1. re: newtothegame

          As you admitted, you're new to wine, so here's a little tip: there's no such thing as Red Zinfandel. There's Zinfandel, which is red and White Zinfandel, which is pink, but comes from the same (red) grape. ;)

          1. re: newtothegame

            Newtothegame, Zinfandel is a red grape variety that produces both red and rosé wine. If the juice from the grapes (all grape juice is whiteish in colour) has only minimal contact with the dark skins, the wine is termed 'White Zinfandel' or rosé since it receives only a portion of the skin's colour pigment. One must be careful though, some producers will mix inferior bulk red and white wine together to create rosé or blush wine - which is not the real thing.

            To answer your question though, I'd choose a Zinfandel with the pork not a White Zin.


            1. re: Northof9

              <Newtothegame, Zinfandel is a red grape variety that produces both red and rosé wine> No, Zinfandel is a red grape from which both red and BLUSH wines are made. The pink wine made from Zinfandel Grapes, and known as "White Zinfandel," is NOT a Rose wine. In fact, White Zin has turned many Americans off from even wanting to try Rose. White Zinfandel is a sugary sweet wine. Rose is not sweet.

              All that aside, NETG, Zinfandel should be a good choice with the pulled pork. As for the Venison Ragu, it does depend somewhat on what the ingredients in that Ragu are going to be. I didn't see where you mentioned that.

              1. re: ChefJune

                Great explanation! I figured the sweetness might be a decent match for the pulled pork as I have a feeling it'll be a fairly sweet sauce.
                Im not 100% sure of the ingredients but I'm pretty sure it'll be a tomato based "Country home cooked" sauce. Tomatoes, garlic, deer and a leaf or two of basil, with the tomatoes and venison being to most bullish tastes.

                1. re: newtothegame

                  I think you're confused. Zinfandel is not normally a sweet wine, unless it's a late harvest style or White Zinfandel, and I know ChefJune well enough to know she wasn't recommending the white type. ;)

                  1. re: invinotheresverde

                    I meant the white Zinfandel might be a good pair if it wasn't incredibly sweet, because of the pulled porks sweetness in the sauce.

                2. re: ChefJune

                  ChefJune, FYI: The term 'blush wine' is an American term first used by Sutter Home. Like Fume Blanc (Mondavi), another American term, it duplicates a process invented elsewhere, in this case high quality rosé wine, the product of Loire. Traditional rose and the original blush plonk whether you like it or not had the same origin; they are a made by either minimal skin contact or run-off juice to enhance the remaining red wine in the vat. The fact that several producers bottle a sweeter wine and call it 'blush' is simply the product of stopped fermentation, residual sugar, and marketing. Rosé is not the product of a specific grape variety, it is a style of wine.

              2. re: newtothegame

                Typed that on the phone, that should read red or white. Thanks for the info, I figured as much on the Zinfandel I just didn't know how to word that question. I've had some awesome Zinfandel's, but limited decent white zin's :)

              3. This is an interesting two meals.

                The first meal I think demonstrates the most important rule of wine pairing--"drink what you like". I think nearly any dry red wine will go well with this dish. If it were me I'd think about a Barbera d'Alba or Langhe nebbiolo. The venison also makes me consider Cotes du Rhone. Sangiovese is a good choice too.

                The second meal demonstrates the weakness of "drink what you like". Many of the wines I like would show poorly next to sweet BBQ sauce. Zin is a great rec. Since pork is a light-ish meat you might also consider new world pinot noir (although this is a very poor-value category), probably California over Oregon or NZ. Rioja or something else from Spain could work too (there are some great value wines from Spain). If it were me I'd bring a Ridge 3 Valleys Zinfandel.

                1. Lots of good recommendations so far. I would give a Dolcetto a try with the ragu if you are buying young wines. Chiantis develop a lot of their charm after a decade in the cellar. I'd prefer a young Dolcetto over a young Chianti. If the venison is gamey an aged Chateauneuf du Pape would pair well.

                  If the pulled pork sauce is sweet like you expect the previously mentioned Zin or a fruit-driven Aussie Shiraz would be fine. Roses traditionally go with smoked meats so your blush idea should work too. Spiciness would be well-served with an Alsatian Gewurztraminer or German Spatslese.

                  1. Venison ragu: Southern Rhone, Piedmont Barbera, or Tuscan Sangiovese

                    Pork: Champagne