Whether you’re in it for the bacon, the pork chops, or the ham, the pig is (as Homer Simpson once put it), “a wonderful, magical animal.” Homer might not have known, though, that when it comes to wine, pairing with pig is a delicate dance. You’re looking for subtlety. Swinging around a big red or a too-tart white can easily drown out the natural sweet and salty flavor of ham or the delicate middle notes of roast pork. Unlike with red meats where the reliable intensity of flavor allows for some semblance of universal pairing advice, when it comes to pork and ham a lot depends on how it’s been prepared. For smoky roasted pork, you can go with a richer, heavier red— say a Syrah— but try the same thing with a honey or maple-glazed ham and you’ve got a mouthful of clash. For sweeter preparations, think mid-bodied reds or sparkling rosé that won’t overpower the meat’s more delicate nuances.
Guigal 2013 Côte-Rôtie La Turque
Whenever James Beard Award-winning sommelier Belinda Chang hears the classic Christmas tune “Deck the Halls” — with it’s “fa-la-la-la-la” chorus — she gets a hankering for three of the world’s greatest red wines, all made by the venerable Rhône Valley producer E. Guigal. Collectively known as the “La-las,” they’re 100 percent Syrahs sourced from the single vineyards La Mouline, La Landonne, and La Turque. Wine collectors around the world covet these wines for their intensity, age-ability, and mystique.
“I love to drink them in the winter. They almost have too much power for dishes at other times of the year,” says Chang. Guigal Côte-Rôtie La Turque 2013 ($525) is a young, peppery, dark fruit-concentrated Syrah that Chang believes is best matched with a dish like peppery herbed roast pork with a rich red wine sauce spiked with black truffles. A little smoky bacon, either wrapped around or added to the sauce, won’t hurt things either.
Dominio do Bibei 2012 Lalama
Javier Domínguez likes to do things the old fashioned way. The really old fashioned way. At his winery in Spain’s Ribeira Sacra D.O., gravity rules, and there are no stainless steel tanks — it’s wood and cement all the way. “Galicia is where the most fascinating red wine in Spain is happening right now,” says Brent Kroll, proprietor of Maxwell Park wine bar in Washington, DC. “The tannins in this Mencía-based wine are just right, so as not to overpower the pork. Its light herbal tones and refreshing quality help the dish feel more elegant.”
Domaine Génot-Boulanger 2015 Meursault Les Meix Chavaux
Wines from the family-owned Génot-Boulanger domaine are produced exclusively from estate-owned vineyards in Burgundy, considered my many to be the gold standard environment for cultivating the world’s most popular white grape, and this 2015 Meursault Les Meix Chavaux ($75). “This Chardonnay has the weight to stand up to the heartiness of the pork, while its vibrant acidity balances the saltiness of the dish,” says Taylor Grant, wine director at Scopa Italian Roots in Venice, Calif. “With stony minerality and good length, it’s sure to make any pork dish shine.”
Bodegas El Nido 2014 Clio ($45)
Located in the Murcia district of Jumilla in Spain, the Bodegas El Nido is a collaboration of the Gil Family and former Penfolds Grange winemaker Chris Ringland, one Australia’s top oenologists. Bodegas El Nido 2014 Clio ($45) is a blend of Monastrell and Cabernet Sauvignon aged 24 months in French and American new oak barrels.
“This juicy beast is sturdy enough to stand up to the bold seasonings often found in braised pork shank, while maintaining just enough elegance to let the tender, succulent flavor of the meat shine,” says sommelier Jessica Norris, director of beverage for Del Frisco’s Grille. “Spanish wines are near and dear to my heart for their ability to always over-deliver, and Bodegas El Nido Clio is no exception.”
Gran Moraine Brut Rosé NV
A Christmas ham calls for a light- to medium-bodied wine that won’t overpower the meat’s weight and flavors. The inaugural release of the non-vintage Gran Moraine Brut Rosé ($50) from Oregon’s Willamette Valley is a blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir with a precise texture and lively finish. Primary notes include brioche, tangerine and dragon fruit. The wine has a touch of sweetness to it, which is important when pairing with ham coated with a sugary glaze.