Pulled pork sandwich: impossible food-wine pairing?!?

pulled pork sandwich
We haven’t had any meat in our impossible pairings series since the bacon explosion. Generally, meat is too easy for us all to pair. So cranking up the degree of difficulty, today we present you the challenge of the pulled pork sandwich.

At the base level it’s not all that hard: a shoulder of pork is smoked (or a whole hog is roasted in eastern North Carolina) and then chopped, shredded or sliced. Then comes the question of sauce. In most places outside of the Carolinas, a sweet barbecue sauce is generally stirred into the meat, forming a gloopy, orange mass of sweet meat that is then plopped on a bun. The haute BBQ places will actually let you add your your own sauce and slaw…which is where it gets tricky.

Some regional variations favor a mustard based sauce. Others have a thin sauce based on cider vinegar while others add a dash of tomato and a dash of sugar. Still other styles have brown sugar or molasses. Finally, there’s the sweet, think mass that is KC Masterpiece.

And the slaw that can go on top presents its own challenges: shredded cabbage, grated carrot, dunked in a sauce of mayonnaise, cider vinegar and sugar.

So make your sandwich the way you like it. And suggest a wine pairing, if it’s not…impossible!

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36 Responses to “Pulled pork sandwich: impossible food-wine pairing?!?”


  1. 2003 Ch. d’Yquem. Guaranteed.


  2. A Boxler pinot gris…a Pegau or Usseglio CDP…NV Krug???


  3. I like zin with BBQ, no matter what the sauce. But vinegar can indeed post a challenge. I like the Krug idea!


  4. Midwestern barbecue relies more on good meat than sauce, which is used sparingly. I prefer a tangy, as opposed to sweet sauce, which is pretty easy to match up. Any decent pizza wine will work in cooler weather. Pinot Gris works fine in warm weather, and I expect other light chilled whites would as well.


  5. Love the CDP option (juicy grenache) and often think of gewurz and reisling as wonderful, too… whether they’re just off-dry or bone dry, they’re sure to be refreshing with this sandwich, which, like so many other folks, is one of my very favs.


  6. I recently had a Conde de Valdemar Rioja Reserva 2002 with some homemade North Carolina Pulled pork. True vinegar sauce, pickles, slaw on a hamburger roll. YUM!

    I have to say, it paired incredibly well. When I saw the post today I just had to comment.


  7. I had a pulled pork sandwich at Zin Restaurant in Healdsburg, Cali and I was drinking Rodney’s Strong 2007 Symmetry, and it paired wonderful. That sandwich was awesome!! too bad I dont live in Cali :(


  8. Twitter Comment


    How bout a chilled “Jam Jar” Shiraz, from a jam jar! RT @drvino Pulled pork sandwich: impossible food-wine pairing?!?

    – Posted using Chat Catcher


  9. Apothic Red blend of Syrah, Zin and Merlot. Cheap, sweet and easy. Like a… well, you get it.


  10. Pulled pork with a vinegar-based sauce and slaw (no mayo/all vinegar) paired great with Goldeneye’s Vin Gris of Pinot Noir. The rose brought enough body to stand up to the sauce, and let the vinegar bring the acidity to the wine. As a bonus, the vintage of Vin Gris (2008 I think) had a definite smoky quality on the nose which was great with the smoked pork– the grapes grew during a big forest fire and apparently took a deep enough breath to hold onto that smokiness…


  11. Zinfandel, Primitivo, Syrah/Shiraz, Rose, Moscato D’Asti still or sparkling.


  12. Tyler-
    As close as I can come would be Miller Beer …the Champagne of Bottled Beers…I’m sure of the 1000 BBQ sandwiches I have had here in NC, at least one with wine…but it’s hardly ever ..offered….available….or asked for..why mess up 2 good things…????


  13. Coming from Memphis, I’ve had plenty of wine and pulled pork sandwiches. Occasionally I’ll smoke a shoulder myself and we’ll munch on the pulled pork for days. So what has worked best?

    Italian wines in general, but two that stand out are Montepulciano d’Abruzzo and a rosé of Sangiovese. If you’ve used a wood like hickory, the smoke that infuses the pork and creates that nice bark on the outside dulls your tastebuds to certain flavors. Particularly with wine, it cancels out most of the tannins. So a young, brash Chianti, for instance, becomes remarkably smooth and fruity.


  14. How about a nicely chilled bottle of rose from Domaine de Fontsainte or Bernard Baudry. Or maybe a Clos la Coutale Cahors.


  15. Mourvedre or Tempranillo work for me for spicy pork BBQ. Surprise. ;)


  16. Cru Beaujolais for me. Slightly chilled.


  17. Don’t be a pu**y doctor, this is a no brainer. As a lover of pulled pork, ribs and many other of the meats that are divine that come from the swine and then grilled over the coals, the answer lies in California where Zinfandel is king and the pigs drink it by the slop-bucket full … or at least they do it my dreams – be great to have them marinading beforehand, wouldn’t it? Zinfandel, my friend, a nice big jammy, fruit, alcoholly Zinfandel … now excuse me, you just gave me an idea for dinner.


  18. If you’re eating an Eastern North Carolina Pulled Pork Sandwich, with just vinegar and slaw, then what you want is something from Alsace. An Albert Mann VV Auxerrois is fine, or the Pinot Blanc or Pinot Gris of your choice. Gewurz is a non-starter. If you’re going for a Western North Carolina Pulled Pork Sandwich, and there is something gross like ketchup involved, plus an ounce or two of Texas Pete, then you might as well drink some cheap Zin, because you’re not going to actually taste anything with any subtlety to it. If I’m in the mood to lay off the Texas Pete, then I might drink a Carignan-heavy Côtes du Roussillon. If I’m in the mood for hot sauce, then I’ll have a Diet Cheerwine. Or a French Broad Wee Heavier Scotch Ale.


  19. Penfolds Black Label Cabernet Shiraz.


  20. Dave – Diet Cheerwine? Sounds like a joke!


  21. A non-carbonic-maceration Cru Beaujolais, especially a structured Moulin a Vent.


  22. When in the land of Kansas City barbecue, native Doug Frost suggests Riesling. Try it, you’ll like it.


  23. A slightly chilled beaujolais worked fine for me


  24. I face this question often, as I live in Eastern NC and eat that variety of pulled pork BBQ as often as I possibly can. (I mean really, is there any other kind? But I digress. . .)
    Depending on my mood, I pair it with Zinfandel — I’ve paired it with both lighter weight and fuller bodied Zins, Rosé (LOVE this pairing), or an inexpensive Spanish Cava, which seemed to work pretty well. I once paired pulled pork sandwiches — no cole slaw — with Bon Bon Shiraz Rosé from Australia, and it was a hit with friends. I think there are plenty of options for BBQ of the Eastern NC variety, but maybe the best match of all is sweet, and I do mean s.w.e.e.t, tea. : )


  25. Schloss Mulenhof-Michel Perlwein…Slightly sparkling Muller-Thurgau… It’s the wine that is closest to beer that I’ve had. It would do wonders with NC style pulled pork.


  26. [...] interesting post over on Dr. Vino’s wine blog about pairing BBQ with wine.  In the post, Dr. Vino references our very own eastern NC-style BBQ.  (I ask you, is there any other kind?  But I [...]


  27. I once did a story on wine with tradional red chili (for the Journal of the International Chili Society and Friends of Wine magazine) and found that Champagne and, Zins were the preferred choices. I would opine that these would also work best for pulled pork.

    Tyler, I will cook traditional red (my recipe was on the cover of Food and Wine a few years ago), chili verde (green pork) and vegetarian. Total of 8 people at my house with a wide variety of wines. What say you?


  28. Reds are for dumdums.

    2009 Breggo Anderson Valley Pinot Gris. The perceived sweetness and sparkling acidity will make the BBQ dance, and the deliciously honeyed peach flavors will foreshadow the peach cobbler you’ll have for dessert. Why peach cobbler? Because you, Dr Vino, are no dumdum.


  29. Everyone but me must be eating pulled pork lately! The Sept. issue of Food & Wine recommends Zinfandel, like Ravenswood’s Lodi, or Lincourt’s Santa Barbara Syrah (the latter with the Carolina version of the dish).


  30. A Condrieu from the Rhone region. Perfect!


  31. Not to be excessively hipster, but a recent drinking experience makes me think that Camillo Donati Malvasia Frizzante (dry) would do it. I love that stuff!


  32. You are all wrong…it’s Lambrusco. Lambrusco and NC BBQ rocks. WAY better than 16% alcohol Zinfandel…


  33. This pulled pork looks great! I would pair it with a red from Argentina just for the spice… :)


  34. I prefer a Calif. zin with pulled pork. However if a vinegar based sauce is on the meat, beer is the call.


  35. OK, I’ve had time to try almost all of them except Diet Cheerwine and a French Broad Wee Heavier Scotch Ale (too bad for me). I excluded beer because that was not the question. I get Zin, but the heat! The winner for me: Sparklings! They give a real lift to pulled pork. My favorites are Roederer Anderson Valley, Argyle Brut, and Mumm’s Napa Brut Prestige, in that order. If you want to spend two or three times as much, buy champagne. Just as good, and in some cases better, are the sparkling roses from the same makers. My wife preferred the roses because they actually complemented the sauce and meat. I preferred the whites because of the cut.


  36. Not just any zin will do for NC BBQ! It needs the acidity. The best would be Ridge Geyserville any vintage with high % Carignane.


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