Ham wine pairing

Published June 8th, 2022

Pork ham is the leg of the pig. This piece of meat is one of the finest and most noble cuts of the animal. And for a good reason!

Because it's a lean cut and there are thousands of ways to cook and eat it. It can be cured, smoked, and eaten raw in cold cuts. But it can also be grilled, braised, or even roasted to obtain nice soft and tasty slices of meat. It is rich and flavorsome, salty, but with a delicious touch of sweetness, and it can be seasoned with herbs or sauces for flavoring.

It became famous in the 16th century as it was essential in the sailors' diet and the seasoned version was easy to store. And because it's so delicious, it has since spread around the world and become a popular delicacy.

Nowadays, there are several varieties and many denominations exist to protect this unique taste and its variations around the world.

This is why ham wine pairing can be so interesting and fun. Basically you can pair ham with any wine you like, as long as you consider the specific preparation.

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Red or white wine with ham

You can choose both red and white wine with ham, and even rosé, or sparkling wine. Because, although culinary tradition treats pork as white meat (it is indeed known as "the other white meat"), scientifically it is actually considered red meat.

The best wine pairing for ham will just depend on the seasoning, the cooking method, and, of course, the eventual glaze or sauce.

Generally speaking, the wine that goes with ham shouldn't be too bold or foo bodied, so that it doesn't overpower the flavor of the ham. It should have some subtle sweet notes and fruity aromas to match the delicate sweetness of the ham, and balance its saltiness. But it also needs some balanced acidity to cleanse the palate from the fat or the greasiness of the dish.

What White Wine Goes with Ham?

White wine is probably the most obvious choice, especially for those hams that have sweet and salty flavors, like the classic Italian Prosciutto, or honey-baked ham. The right white wine for ham should have good acidity to cleanse the palate but a touch of residual sugar and a good aromatic profile to match the sweet side of the ham or its dressing.

A Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi is a great choice if you are having a summer Italian starter of ham and melon, for example. With its savory taste and its citrus and vegetal notes, Verdicchio will highlight the flavor of the ham and the freshness of the melon, bringing a general balance to the prosciutto wine pairing.

The aromatic notes and gentle crispiness of a Friulano may enhance the sweetness of a Parma ham and will clearly be the best regional companion for a San Daniele.

The marked acidity of a German Riesling is an excellent complement to salty foods such as ham. And if the wine is off-dry it will pair beautifully with any glaze. The same goes for an Alsatian Gewurztraminer which, although less acidic, has the perfect aromatic sweetness for a wine ham pairing.

Chenin Blanc wines from France both dry or off-dry certainly will have the medium-body and acidity to withstand the texture and flavors of baked ham.

What Red Wine Goes with Ham?

Red wine pairing with ham is not difficult: a fruity red with light to medium body and delicate acidity will certainly be a great choice. But since there is plenty of choice out there, let’s focus on some specific grapes.

Young Valpolicella wines, based on the indigenous Corvina, can offer all the fruitiness and body needed by your ham, cured or roasted, without overpowering it.

With its peppery notes and its bold fruitiness, a medium-bodied Syrah will create a very interesting combination with smoked ham.

A Sangiovese from the Chianti region can be an exciting companion to the intensity of flavors typical of Spanish hams. And if you like Italian wines, another excellent pick may be a light and fresh Barbera d’Asti, that it’s not too acidic nor too structured and yet has a delicious fruity character.

While an elegant Pinot Noir from New Zealand with its silkiness and red fruit flavors will always be a refined choice for baked ham. On the other hand, an Old World Pinot Noir or a Nebbiolo will have those earthy notes that can match well with a smoked ham.

Can sparkling wine be paired with Ham?

The answer is yes. Bubbles are a great partner to salty food.

They cleanse the palate leaving a refreshing sensation.

And, there is plenty of choice among them.

Prosecco, with its aromatic profile and delicate dry character will pair well with almost any cured ham as long as it’s not a smoked one.

Moscato d’Asti is a classic match with Parma ham. The gentle sweetness and elegant bubbles can lift the saltiness and fatty nature of ham. Thanks to its residual sugar and delicate fruitiness, this is a good choice also for glazed ham.

But if you want to taste something different, then open a good bottle of Lambrusco with those hams that have smoky flavors like Speck from Northern Italy or the Black Forest Ham.

Wine pairing based on style of ham

Prosciutto wine pairing

Prosciutto is the typical Italian ham. The pork is cured and seasoned according to tradition and style, then cut into thin slices. It is normally quite rich in salt but also has a delicate sweetness. It is often eaten as an appetizer and can be served with fruit or bread. There are many variations, both in Italy and abroad. Sometimes it is the specific type of pork and the way it is reared as for Iberico and Serrano hams, but most of the time the differences are based on the curing techniques.

Dry white wines with good minerality and herbaceous flavors are a great choice for this type of ham. You can choose a Sauvignon Blanc, a dry Sherry, a Verdicchio, a Friulano or even a sparkling wine such as a Prosecco. If there is a touch of sweetness like in Moscato d'Asti or Lambrusco, even better!

Our suggestion for Italian ham: Livio Felluga Friulano

Our suggestion for Spanish ham: Lustau Jarana Fino Sherry

Smoked ham wine pairing

Smoked hams such as speck or German hams tend to be slightly less salty and less sweet. To fully enjoy the aromas and flavors that derive from their careful and slow traditional preparation, it is advisable to avoid pairing with wines that are too structured and aromatic, which tend to cover or even cancel the taste.

Here the woody and smoky notes are more evident, and the ham requires a light red with personality that can align with its flavors, but it's not too exuberant. The right wine should also have a good dose of fruitiness. Choose an elegant Pinot Noir, a juicy Primitivo, a fresh Valpolicella or a tasty medium-aged Tempranillo.

Our suggestion: Oliver's Taranga Vineyards Tempranillo

Glazed ham wine pairing

Glazed ham is a classic preparation in British cuisine, normally prepared on the festive days thanks to its scenic presence and its pleasant flavors that meet everyone’s tastes.

The delicate saltiness of the meat is lifted up by the sweet crust. The glaze can be made with honey or fruity sauces and even with mustard for a more pungent flavor. Pork meat is quite versatile and offers itself to many combinations.

And while a mustard glaze would need a bottle of red wine, possibly a Pinot Noir, a honey-baked ham would definitely find its best wine partner in an off-dry Riesling or Chenin Blanc. These wines have the structure and mouthfeel to withstand the meat texture enhancing the sweet and salty combination of the recipe.

The same wines are also perfect for Canadian ham that it’s sweet pickle cured and coated in yellow cornmeal.

But with this kind of recipe, there is also a sweet option, like a Moscato d’Asti, that with its delicate sweetness and low alcohol level can enhance the ham flavors in a perfectly harmonious match.

Our suggestion: Champalou Vouvray


As we explained, the answer to the question of what wine goes with ham lies in the ham style and recipe.

Ham is a lean type of meat, that can be treated and prepared in different ways, but it generally has some saltiness and good texture, so it goes well with light to medium-bodied wines with an energetic aromatic profile.

As a general rule, your best option would be a fruity wine both white or red, and that should do the trick.

But if you want to be a bit more specific, salty hams prefer wines that possess higher acidity, while sweet hams (or those prepared with some sweet ingredients and sauces) are better with white off-dry or sweet wines.

So don’t stop at the most obvious and easy ham wine pairing but explore and try different matches. And enjoy!