Ham is the
table. Depending on the menu, it can alter appearances, switch flavor accents and even set a certain emotional mood at dinner.
While being a chameleon has its advantages both on the big screen and in the home kitchen, ham's innate changeability makes it hard to issue sweeping wine pairing suggestions. It depends on the saltiness or smokiness of the ham, the sweetness of the glaze, whether mustard is served on the side or not.
You can go in many different directions with the wine, as I learned by posing the question on two social media platforms,
. I received wine recommendations from folks across the country (plus one or two in the
"Ham is salty, so it will make acidic wines taste fruitier, which is why Chablis and Beaujolais work," said Fiona Beckett, an English cheese and wine expert and author (
Riesling, naturally, is the choice of Nicholas Quille, winemaker and general manager of Pacific Rim, a winery in
's Columbia Valley that focuses on the variety.
"It is a great match with ham, and it is widely available," he noted. Quille also suggested Beaujolais, one of the Cru bottlings; spatburgunder, the German name for pinot noir; Austrian gruner veltliner; and Spanish albarino.
For Kairos Cuilann des Rosiers, principal of WineIlluminati, a Seattle-based fine wine brokerage and consultancy, the choice is Alsatian pinot gris because of "the acidity, fruit and baker's spices always hanging out in the background."
Perhaps the most useful advice was also the most general: "Keep it light, fun, fresh and friendly, kind of like an Easter bonnet," wrote Alpana Singh, wine and spirits director for Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises, which owns restaurants nationwide.
And, in that spirit, why not open more than one wine at your dinner? Put out a cluster of glasses and let people try a red, a white, a rose, a sparkling, with the ham you serve. See if over the banter of the holiday feast your family can reach an agreement on a winner.
Let me know which wine gets
for best performance at your table.
From white to red and back again
We paired four whites and four reds with a sliced, smoky ham that had just enough salt to provide a spark without overwhelming the natural porky sweetness. Scores reflect how well each wine worked with the ham. Six of the eight wines scored higher with the ham than without.