I know we’re all thinking along the same lines right now — what wine pairs with ham?
As we approach the holidays, many of us are planning meals in preparation for long-awaited visits with friends and family. If you really want to wow them this season, pairing up favorite foods with the right wine always brings smiles.
Fortunately, there are plenty of delicious wine options for pairing with ham, even for the pickiest wine drinkers in the bunch.
Pairing Wine with Ham: the Basics
Food and wine pairing is like alchemy. Of course, there aren’t many choices that are just terrible, but there are some truly spectacular pairings, and that’s all down to a few key principles.
First, let’s think about the ham. It is usually smoked, often sweet (as in Honeybaked or glazed ham), and quite fatty, no matter how you cook it. The best way to balance and compliment the rich, smoky sweetness of the ham is to pair it with a semi-sweet wine. A little sugar cuts the perception of fat, helping the dish and all its cream-and-butter-laden accompaniments (scalloped potatoes, anyone?) not seem so heavy.
Which Wines are Best with Ham?
Now that you know the basic principle we’ll follow, let’s move on to the wines themselves. Here are a few ideas for what wine to pair with ham.
White Wines with Ham
Riesling is always an excellent choice. Though you might think that all riesling is sweet, that’s not always the case. You want to look for one with medium-sweetness and weight, such as a riesling Kabinett from Germany. Alsatian riesling (from the Alsace region of France) is also excellent, but many are dry.
A good rule of thumb where riesling is concerned is to look for one with an alcohol level (ABV) of about 11% if you want semi-sweet. Sweeter versions clock in at about 9-10% ABV, and if they’re over 12%, they’re considered dry.
Other great choices include:
- Vouvray from France (chenin blanc)
- Chenin blanc from South Africa (value-priced)
- Moscato (nothing too dry or too sweet)
Try to avoid wines like viognier or rousanne as they could easily overpower the flavors of the ham. By the same token, dry whites like pinot grigio won’t do the dish any justice. You need something aromatic and semi-sweet. If you want to go totally outside the box, try an oloroso or amontillado sherry! You’ll be knocked out at how beautifully they pair.
Red Wines with Ham
Choose medium-bodied, fruity reds with good acidity. A little bit of sugar is okay; a lot of tannin is not. Avoid heavy wines like cabernet sauvignon and opt for:
- Pinot noir (new world styles are better with ham)
- Cotes du Rhone (grenache)
- Lighter-style zinfandel
Rosé Wines with Ham
Rosé strikes the perfect balance between red and white. Go for something that’s a little (not a lot) sweet, like a French Tavel or Provencal rosé.
- Spanish Rosato (Tempranillo or grenache)
- Nebbiolo rosé (Italy)
- Sparkling rosé Cava (Spain)
- Tavel, Lirac, or Provence rosé (France)
- Vin gris zinfandel (not white zin)
Now that you know what wines to pair with ham, it’s time to send out the invites! To simplify your holiday wine shopping, why not order a case? We’re here to help you tick off your to-do list, and that’s just one way we do it. Sign up for a wine club subscription today!