What is Korean BBQ? It is a meal where you select some meats to cook on an in-table BBQ until cooked. Then you wrap the meats in a leaf of lettuce and add some chili sauce and roasted garlic slices to taste. The meats can be a variety of pork, beef rib, beef brisket, or tenderloin. You can also choose to cook some prawns or other types of seafood or vegetables such as mushrooms or eggplant. Additionally, you are usually provided some sides of kimchi, garlic potatoes, pickles, and other Korean delicacies which you probably do not want to know what they are!
Given that assortment, you may wonder how it is possible to match any wine with Korean BBQ!
I have tried a number of wines with Korean BBQ previously which were ok, but not a great match for the food. I have tried a Gewürztraminer, Semillon, and some spicy Shiraz'. But then I realized that the secret was not to match up the wine with the meat, but rather to match it to the chili and garlic flavors which my wife, my friends and I tend to enjoy in quantity. Therefore, we had two quite different Rieslings and a Grenanche which were all perfectly matched to the food.
While I love an aged, kerosene type of Riesling, it would not be a good match for Korean BBQ. Korean BBQ has powerful flavors coming from the chili and garlic, but is also delicate and cooling from the leaf of lettuce and other cold side vegetable dishes. Therefore, a younger to medium aged, crisper Riesling is far better suited. I had about a half bottle of the 2006 Annies Lane Clare Valley Riesling from the night before and knew it would do nicely. This was an older, richer Riesling, perfectly balanced and a joy to drink on its own and with Korean BBQ. It still had a crisp edge to it, but had developed some complex flavors and a beautiful texture on the tongue and cheeks. The important thing was that there was no oily taste that I often love on a Riesling when drinking it with cheese, or with certain types of seafood.
That was followed by a much younger, lighter Watervale Riesling, the 2011 Mount Horrocks. This was a highly recommended Riesling gifted to us a few nights previously as we selected some other white wines to drink that evening. This wine certainly lived up to its reputation! After attacking the food with the 2006 Annies Lane, we took a breather with the much lighter Watervale Riesling. The 2011 Mount Horrocks had a citrus lemon-lime flavor and was sustaining and refreshing at the same time. I usually try to go from lighter whites to heavier reds during the course of a meal, but tonight we started with the heavier Riesling (primarily because it was already opened) and then onto the lighter one. This really worked well! It was similar to the middle movement in a symphony where you are taking a bit of a breather (an adagio or andante) between the opening usually brisk declaration (allegro) and the final movement where everything comes together in a resounding climax. The 2011 Mount Horrock Riesling was our 'andante' that evening! (And you probably were thinking I was just a wino!)
I need to consider other meal plans where I mix it up a bit like this instead of building continuously to a wine climax. This really allowed us to pace the meal and enjoy the time we had together without 'rushing' my wine drinking. (I did not even realize that I might have been doing that!)
We then finished the evening with the 2006 Cirillo 1850 Grenache. This grape is most often associated with the Châteauneuf-du-Pape region in France. The Grenache grape has a smooth soft texture to it, yet still possesses good body. To me, it combines the best elements of a Cabernet Sauvignon and a Shiraz. I have had a number of different wines from Châteauneuf-du-Pape, but admittedly not some of the very best (as they can be very expensive!). One very nice bottle I had recently was the 2006 Chateauneuf-Du-Pape Perrin & Fils Les Sinard with turkey, mash and gravy and it was exquisite!
There is not a lot of Grenache grown in Australia and this is the first one I have had. I was blown away! So smooth and far better than the medium range Châteauneuf-du-Pape wines I have had (the 2006 Chateauneuf-Du-Pape Perrin & Fils Les Sinard being the exception!) It had big, fresh fruit flavors of cherry and raspberry. The 1850 on the bottle actually is the year the vines were planted. These are some seriously mature and hearty vines! I am looking forward to getting some more of this wine!
I asked previously, "What is Korean BBQ?" It is really a cacophony of flavors going on in your mouth. That is why I believe a Grenache or a Tempranillo goes better than a primary red grape such as a Cabernet Sauvignon or Shiraz with Korean BBQ. We are more conditioned to knowing what a Cabernet Sauvignon or a Shiraz tastes like, whereas a Grenache or a Tempranillo is a discovery in new taste and therefore seems to match better with Korean BBQ.
Next time, I will try a Tempranillo unless I get my hands on more of the 2006 Cirillo 1850 Grenache - that wine would be tough to pass on with any meal!