SQN & Korean BBQ

I have a special dinner coming up at Cote (high end Korean bbq, for those unfamiliar). Typically I just have beer with Korean bbq and tend towards a Syrah when folks want a red. I am thinking about breaking out a SQN given the client/crowd and wondering if anyone has thoughts or experience on a pairing? I have bottles of the 2015 Trouver l’arena, 2017 Hated Hunter, or Grenache (2016 Eleven Confessions / 2017 Gorgeous Victim). I’ve tasted older vintages of SQN just once during a tasting and appreciate any thoughts on any of the 4 I noted, realizing Korean bbq is a tough pairing…

Before the “just drink beer” crowd arrives in force, I’ll offer an opinion on your actual question.

I think you have the right idea here. If you are having red wine with Korean BBQ, you want something with a lot of fruit and low tannins, so new world syrah, zinfandel, grenache type wines would work well.

And those wines are actually not just passable, but actually a good match and pairing with most of the entree items you would probably have in Korean BBQ.

Where wine gets difficult is with the sea of banchan, which are the small assorted sides which are often heavily spicy, pickled and/or garlicky. And then the spicy tofu soups and all. No red wine is really good around those. But it’s kind of unfair to conclude “therefore no wine at Korean BBQ.” We don’t say that if you order appetizers and sides at a steakhouse that don’t, straight up, go with the Bordeaux you are having with your entree. “You can’t have Bordeaux at the steakhouse because it doesn’t go with the lobster bisque and the side of asparagus!”

Enjoy, and don’t let the haters bring you down.

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No other help than I think I’d go Grenache > Syrah.

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Korean bbq isn’t heavily sauced; I think you could consider Champagne as a starter bottle and see how it pairs with the meat and banchan.

I’m a fan of Cote and we order the Steak Omacase menu when we go. The prep, however, is not what is generally considered Korean BBQ. The meat is not sauced, other than soy prior to cooking, if you choose. We choose salt only. These steaks have a lot of intramuscular fat that, in my opinion, best pair with wines with lower abv, and higher acid and/or tannins to offset the mouthfeel and taste of the meat. When we go, we drink a bottle of Champagne from their list (which is good) and bring a red. Wines that have paired well have been lower abv Cabernet (last time we drank a 2017 Beta Montecillo Cab, which was good after a long decant), Nebbiolo and other high-tannin or acid (think Barbera) Italian red, and almost all EWCY! red/blend. My favorite pairing was '18 Dirty and Rowdy Evangelho Mourvèdre.

I find the SQN wines to be too alcoholic and flabby to pair with the richness of Cote’s meats. YMMV, of course.

I drink red wine (burgundy and nebbiolo, usually) with KBBQ. I think they go well with fermented flavors provided there is low/moderate hot chili level, which is usually the case. I’d stay away from the sauced meats, if possible, especially spicy pork. It should be fun no matter what you drink. If you want to play it safe, drink SQN on the cool side and bring a back up (or champagne or riesling as well).

I like this idea M Kaplan, thanks for the advice! I have tons more cabs that fit the bill over the Rhône/granache I often see suggested and will bring a champagne for the 2 bottle corkage max. Will report back after the dinner.

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Korean married and 3 years living here, and there are some good pointers here and there in the replies. Chris Seiber points to a vital thing which is the banchan, that is either acidic, spicy or sweet in singular orientation, which clashes with heavy reds. Patrick Taylor is also right in the fact that BBQ is generally unmarinated unless you order Galbi — and his suggestion along with M.Kaplan about champagne is surely a good suggestion to a starting bottle, but the pairing that shines for me is;

Gamay, Pinot Noir on the lighter side
Des Tours
Lighter Grenache along the lines of L’Anglore
lower end light burgundy — no reason to eat a piece of kimchi and then having trouble tasting your premier cru.
Poulsard, Trousseau
Gewurztraminer, Riesling

If nothing else then enjoy one bottle with the food and then sit and contemplate with something else afterwards :man_shrugging:

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Korean foods pair surprising well with Zinfandels, too.

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Definitely, zin is a top option for Korean BBQ, and a lot of other Asian food, at least as far as “if you want to have red wine.”

It’s not food-wine nirvana type pairing, but a perfectly decent choice for a red wine that works well enough with a lot of Asian cuisine.

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I have had both of the Syrahs you mention in the past 18 months and liked the Hated Hunter more at the time I had it. Both would work for reasons cited by others. In fact, most of my SQN consumption is with American Barbeque styles - usually Texas, Memphis, or Caronlina given my local outlets of choice. I prefer the Grenache from SQN with more time in the bottle.

Cheers,
fred

+1 to all of this, based on my experience at Cote.

Building on what Mark said above, it would be good to think of Cote as being much closer to “High end steakhouse with Korean influences” than “Korean BBQ”. Again, the meat isn’t sauced. There are banchan though. When I went I drank Champagne and Pichon Lalande, and they paired just fine.

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There sre 2 kinds of galbi, marinated and not marinated. The marinated one isnt only soy sauce. Bulgogi is always marinated but I cant recall if that is on Cote’s menu. Then there are different types of pork bbq. Again, I cant recall if that is on their menu.
I can do so many different types of red wines with korean beef bbq, doesnt bother me one bit even with the banchans. Btw, if I had to choose I would go with rosé champ. For me it goes well with meat and many side dishes.

You make a good point about Korean BBQ pairing well with different wines. It’s definitely not a one-size-fits-all situation. I’ve also noticed in a lot of Korean movies and shows that people usually pair the food with soju or beer. No wonder it’s such a common pairing in the culture! If anyone wants to learn more about pairing and enjoying other types of Korean cuisine, this tourism guide has some good info https://gowithguide.com/blog/seoul-tourism-statistics-2023-the-ultimate-guide-5535

I have very limited knowledge about Korean BBQ, so I won’t comment on it directly. I am a fan of Indian food and often drink either SQN or Saxum with spicy Indian lamb dishes. I think that the strong Grenache wines pair very well with spicy Indian lamb and goat dishes. If the Korean food is similarly spicy, I would go with the 2017 Gorgeous Victim, which I have had twice in the past 9 months and it showed very well. A few people at our SQN dinner last May thought it was the best out of 15 or more wines.

If Korean BBQ is sticky sweet, ignore me. Flying blind, I would try the syrah if it is sweet BBQ.

But the question is whether there is any circumstance in which you would like SQN.

I was on their mailing list for a very long time. But no longer. As Jason wrote above, Cote is more a high end steak restaurant with Korean influences than Korean BBQ. If it was the latter, sure, SQN Syrah or Grenache would be fine, if one is ok with the abv. The meat at Cote has a lot of intramuscular fat (think ultra prime and wagyu), which I think pairs better with higher acid and higher tannin wines with less oak. I don’t want to drink fat wines with fat foods, preferring the refreshment of something brighter and lighter (palate weight and mouthfeel) with high fat beef. So I wasn’t slagging SQN; while I no longer drink many of them, maybe a half dozen bottles a year at X-Pensive Wino dinners, I hold the Krankls in the highest regard.

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Keep in mind that they don’t meaningfully produce wine in Korea, so it’s really not that Koreans have historically rejected wine in favor of those other drinks because the pairing is better.

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Many korean restaurants make their bbq a bit on the sweeter side. Typically homemade isnt sweet.