Smoking Low & Slow with Rioja Wines #WinePW

Old world style wines, like this LAN Rioja Reserva pair beautifully with many flavors from the grill

American Barbecue and Old World Wines
I’m happy to take the BBQ and Rioja wine challenge with our Wine Pairing Weekend group this month, as I’m an outdoor cooking fan as well as a fan of old world, traditional style wines. I own multiple grills, my favorites are my Primo Ceramic Grills. These grills are versatile, and can smoke meats for 18+ hours at a low temperature and turn around to cook pizza at 600° F. As a Minnesota dweller, I don’t let the weather stop me from firing up the grill!


  • I purchased my first (large) Primo grill at a local retail shop. I received a second Primo (junior) grill in return for photos over the course of a year. I am no longer under any agreements with Primo, I simply enjoy their products and support them!
  • The wine for today’s post was provided as a sample by Bodegas LAN. No other compensation was involved, all opinions are mine.

(click on any photo for full-size slideshow, hit “escape” to return to the post)

Challenges of American BBQ with Old World Style Wines
Why a challenge? The American grilling and smoking lexicon is full of big flavors and sauces with significant amounts of spice and sugar. With these dishes, old-world styled wines, wherever they are from, can get lost.  Those ripe, fruity and voluptuous Zinfandels from California and Malbecs from Argentina pair better with all those over the top flavors. That’s no reason to avoid subtle, earthy, dry wines at the grill, you simply need to be thoughtful in your pairings.  Think savory rubs, sauces with fruit but not extra sugar. Rich flavors, by all means, but not over-the-top.

Rioja wines have some advantages at the grill, as they express the bold side of the flavor spectrum while retaining a bit of restraint. I find contemporary style Rioja wines such as those from Bodegas LAN to be excellent bridges between new world styles and old.  I enjoy very traditional style Riojas, but I would hesitate to serve them to friends.  I never worry with Bodegas LAN.

Bodegas LAN Rioja Reserva expresses bold flavors while exercising some restraint. Well done.

Bodegas LAN Rioja Reserva 2012 (sample, $20 SRP or online here) 13.5% abv
Eye: Hazy, medium ruby with a ruby edge. Medium staining and tears.
Nose: Clean, initially pronounced intensity, dominated by fresh dill aromas. After leaving the bottle open for a few hours, the intensity was medium+ and the dill aromas became well integrated with the other aromas of the wine. Dill, tart/sour cherries, leather, clean wet earth, vanilla and a bit of pepper.
Mouth: Dry, medium+ intensity. Medium acidity, medium tannins, medium body and medium alcohol. Flavors echo the aromas: sour cherries, dill and vanilla, leather and clean earth. The medium+ finish lingers with fruit and a bit of astringency.

Pairing with slow smoked beef short ribs
How did the LAN Rioja Reserva fare with the barbecue?  The peppery ribs loved the Rioja Reserva! The rich beef and pepper flavors brought out the fruit in the wine for a happy combination. The lack of any sweetness in the rub on the ribs meant that a structured red wine could play happily with all the flavors in the dish, and showing off the fruit character of the wine. A nice combination indeed. One note: in the summertime, I’m especially careful to put just a touch of chill on the red wine, serving it at around 65° F. 80° F red wine is not refreshing!

Barbecue & Rioja from Wine Pairing Weekend Pals
Our Wine Pairing Weekend group has a bunch of great ideas for pairing Rioja wines with BBQ. Take a look below at all the great ideas you’ll see this weekend. While you’re at it, join our chat on Twitter on 13 July at 10am CDT. Just search for the hashtag: #WinePW

José Andrés Migas – Bread Salad
We paired our short ribs with a bread salad from a José Andrés recipe. It’s easy and delicious, and was very nice with our short ribs.

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Smoked Beef Short Ribs & Bread Salad with Oyster Mushrooms Spanish Ham

Rich, peppery beef short ribs pair beautifully with a nice Rioja Crianza or Reserva. The oyster mushroom and Spanish ham salad makes a nice side dish for the ribs with a Spanish flair.

Rub for Beef Short Ribs
Based on the recipe posted at Nibble Me This, an excellent ceramic grill blog. I eliminate the salt from any rub I make myself. I salt the meat separately, usually at least 24 hours in advance. Salt is the only spice which penetrates the meat, so salting in advance (aka dry brining) is smart. It’s easy to moderate the amount of salt you use if that’s a concern.  I go with 1/2 tsp per pound of meat. The rub is quite peppery. If you’re sensitive to pepper, be judicious with how much rub you use.


  • 3-4 lbs. beef short ribs
  • 2 Tbsp black peppercorns
  • 1 Tbsp green peppercorns
  • 1 Tbsp dried minced garlic
  • 1 Tbsp dried red pepper flakes
  • 2 1/4 tsp dried minced onion
  • 2 tsp dried thyme leaves

Short Rib Instructions

  • Salt the meat separately, a day in advance if possible, approx. 1/2 tsp per pound of meat
  • Mix the rub ingredients in advance, and grind the amount you need on the day of your cook. The spice aromatics are so much better when freshly ground
  • Setup for smoke, indirect heat and preheat the grill to 225-250° F. I use apple wood from a local orchard, available at our local farmers market.
  • Apply the rub and lightly press into the meat just before you put the meat on the grill
  • Add water or beer to the drip pans
  • Place the ribs over the drip pans, with some space between each rib.
  • Cook the ribs to an internal temperature of 200° F. Plan on this requiring 4-6 hours on the grill.

Bread with Oyster Mushrooms and Spanish Ham
I used the recipe from “Made in Spain” by José Andrés. The book is full of good recipes and can be had used very inexpensively from Amazon. This recipe is available online here, from the Today show.


16 Responses to “Smoking Low & Slow with Rioja Wines #WinePW”
  1. culinarycam says:

    Thanks for hosting, Jeff. My post will be live shortly. I’ve always envied your grill…thanks for the info on it.

  2. Vino Travels says:

    I always see you grilling year round and the pictures always look amazing. I was going to go the short ribs route too, but my kids love sausages. Thanks for organizing everything.

  3. Great pairing ideas Jeff! I also had the LAN Reserva and my rub was pretty savory and it worked out beautifully! Great tips on chilling the red just a bit in the summer. It makes a difference!

  4. Deanna says:

    What a very nice description of the wine and beautiful wine pairings too. Really like the dry rubbed ribs and elevated bread salad. Seems like a wonderful meal to enjoy al fresco and with Rioja, of course!

  5. You are quite the dedicated griller Jeff! I’m the more fair weather type. Another beautiful plate!

  6. wendyklik says:

    Thanks so much for hosting this month Jeff and for procuring the wines. It was a great event.

  7. Great advice on pairing old-world style wines with American barbecue. I like to think of “barbecue” as simply grilling (without sweet sauces)!
    Thanks for hosting!

  8. Its awesome that you grill no matter the weather! I guess sometimes you need to shovel your way to the grill sometimes! LOL The photo shows perfectly that these wines are excellent with just a slight chill.

  9. I always look forward to your posts – especially the photos! I’m intrigued by the recipe for the migas, so much so that it’s likely to end up on our table. Soon! Thanks again for hosting this month Jeff.

  10. Noah says:

    Food with wine enhances the enjoyment. I love this kind of parties where friends and family members and friends get together. There is a big benefit of a party every person told us about our favorite wine brand. Through this way, we tasting the new kind of wine.

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