Baked Beans comes in all manner of styles and preparations. From the thick molasses style of Boston Baked Beans served at a Christmas Dinner, to a smokey BBQ style served at a tailgate party, you have a filling side dish that everyone loves. High in carbohydrates, and often dressed with acidic sauces (tomato based or vinegar based), Baked Beans require an acidic red wine such as a Zinfandel, Pinot Noir, Grenache, Primitivo, or Cabernet Franc.
Zinfandel & Baked Beans Pairing
When we think of baked beans, we think of navy beans slow-cooked in a rich Tomato Sauce. The flavour is somewhat earthy but tangy, and a perfect match would be a Zinfandel. Zinfandel are a little tangy themselves, and the tanginess of the food and the wine cancels each other out, allowing the rich flavours of the beans and wine to shine. Primitivo, the Italian version of Zinfandel (same grape, different style), offers a more restrained pairing to baked beans.
If the Baked Beans lean more towards a smoky BBQ flavour than Tomato Sauce, Zinfandel is still your wine of choice. A Zinfandel is somewhat sweet and can handle the strong, yet sweet flavours of a BBQ sauce exceptionally well. I find Zinfandel has a smokey aspect layered in to the wine, which naturally complements the barbecue sauce. If the sauce is exceptionally sweet, aim for an off-dry white Zinfandel instead.
Cabernet Franc & Baked Beans Pairing
The same ‘tangyness’ principle that you have with Zinfandel applies to a medium-bodied Cabernet Franc. Cabernet Franc has a lot of green notes, so it is perfect for the earthy flavours of Baked Beans
Cabernet Franc is naturally high in acidity, and moderately lower in tannin, so it will pair fantastic with both tomato sauce, or vinegar based barbecue sauces. This is a tougher wine find as a stand alone, as it’s not an overly popular style of red wine (not everyone appreciates the green notes it offers), so give the pairing a taste test before serving it at any large gathering.
Côtes du Rhône & Baked Bean Pairing
Another lovely choice is a red Côtes du Rhône that is Grenache-based. Côtes du Rhône is a medium-bodied red that is not too high in tannin so it will not clash with any tomato sauce in the baked beans. On top of its lightly fruity body, It also has an earthy backdrop that complements the dense bean flavours in a baked bean dish.
With Côtes du Rhône you get that nice acidity quality, which is important with Baked Beans. The high carbohydrate content and richness of baked beans tends to clog up your tastebuds, so the acidity of the wine helps in scrubbing those dense flavours away.
Boston Baked Beans & Pinot Noir
Finally, if the Baked Beans are done ‘Boston Baked Bean’ style, (which means they were slow-cooked in Molasses) Our pick would be a bright but earthy Pinot Noir to bring out the best in both the beans and the wine.
If this style of beans happen to have Bacon mixed in as well, you will have a heavenly match!
Pinot Noir is a light and fruity red wine that also has an earthy duality that loves the earthy flavours of beans and bacon. Generally, Pinot Noir is not oaked, so it is low enough in tannin in that it won’t clash with any acidic sauces that dress up your Boston Baked Beans.
Beer & Baked Beans
With Baked Beans, most beers work, however English Brown Ales, and American Brown Ales highlight the molasses flavour you find in slow-cooked baked beans. A Doppelbock, which is essentially a strong and malty German Lager, will complement the richness of your baked beans quite nicely as well.