I always think it’s misleading to describe pork as a ‘white meat’. Strictly that's accurate, I suppose, but ‘whiteness’ somehow seems to suggest lack of flavour. Although that’s still true of much mass-produced pork there’s far more rare breed pork around these days which has a great deal of character.
It’s certainly substantial enough to carry a red, on the other hand it is often accompanied by ingredients - such as apples or fennel - that point in the direction of a white. And it does have chicken’s chameleon-like ability to take on other flavours which means you sometimes have to think of matching the sauce rather than the meat. It can also be quite fatty which calls for a wine - white or red - with some freshness and acidity to cut through.
It’s not a ‘noble meat’ - I don’t often think of pork and Cabernet or pork and Barolo in the same breath but it can be a fine one, worth bringing out a good bottle for.
I’ve changed my mind about some of the pairings I recommended in Eating and Drinking. Here are my current thoughts.
To tell the truth white wine is a better match than red with most roast pork dishes but psychologically one tends to expect a red with a roast, even one cooked, Italian-style with fennel, lemon and garlic. I personally enjoy Northern Rhône and Italian reds with pork: something like a decent Crozes-Hermitage or a Chianti Classico (particularly with the latter dish) though I know many pork fans prefer a Pinot Noir.
With a more traditional dish of roast pork and apple sauce a decent Côtes du Rhône Villages will do the trick. Even with more delicate roast suckling pig a light to medium-bodied red can work well. I recently enjoyed a Portuguese Bairrada, a 2005 Casa de Saima with this dish which hit the spot perfectly.
If you can move outside your comfort zone you will find many whites will match well with roast pork, especially when it’s served cold. Old vine Chenin Blanc is a very enjoyable match for cold roast pork while an off-dry German Riesling makes a delicious match for roast belly pork (though watch the accompanying vegetables. Tomato-based dishes won’t help the pairing).
Here’s an account of a tasting I did with Wines of Germany in 2004 with a ‘piggy plate’ of parma ham, roast belly of pork and black pudding. “You’d think the rather delicate whites of Germany would be overwhelmed by such hearty fare but not at all. The three star matches were a crisp zesty 2003 Riesling Classic from Kloster Eberbach (good with everything, but particularly with the pork), a rich, aromatic 2002 Pinot Gris from the Johanniner Estate in the Nahe which was sensational with the spicy black pudding and an exotically fruity dry Riesling spätlese from Markus Fries. Of course this shouldn’t come as a surprise if you think of the fruit flavours that go with pork, especially apple and citrus and the Germans have a great pork-based cuisine of their own so it would be a logical and obvious partnership there. But it was the chemistry of the combinations that were fascinating - the slight sweetness of the wines offsetting the smokiness and spiciness of the black pudding and the perfect pitch of the acidity of these wines cutting through the fattiness of the pork."
Grilled pork - e.g. a pork chop
Similar recommendations to the above, depending on the saucing (if creamy, follow the recommendations below). You might well be thinking of accompanying it with something more Italianate like a salsa verde, in which case a dry Italian white or a decent Valpolicella or Chianti would be a good choice.
Pork in a creamy sauce - with mushrooms or mustard
Both red and white burgundy work well (unsurprisingly) with this classic French bistro dish. Other cool climate unoaked or subtly oaked Chardonnay or Pinot Noir should work too as would a dry Alsace Riesling or Pinot Gris or a Vouvray.
Pork casserole or pie with cider or apples
Cider is actually by far the best match here but if you want to drink wine I’d again suggest a good Chenin, Chardonnay or easy-going inexpensive southern French red that’s relatively modest in alcohol. Like Côtes du Rhône again.
Barbecued/char siu pork
The combination of spice and sweetness tends to strip the fruit out of whites so I’d pick a robust jammy red with either of these dishes. A mid-weight Shiraz or Australian Cabernet-Shiraz, a Chilean Merlot or Carmenère, a Pinotage, a Zinfandel - you get the picture. Gutsy wine, sweet fruit.
Sweet and sour pork
More often than not combined with other dishes that may affect the pairing but a fruity new world rosé especially a Merlot rosé should take it in its stride. Better than the often-recommended match of Riesling, I find. A very fruity white such as a Colombard or Semillon-Chardonnay can also work
Due for a comeback now we’re harking back to frugal dishes. The paprika is always more important than the pork to me and suggests a rustic red. You could try the Hungarian Kékfrankos (Austrian Blaufrankisch) if you wanted a regional pairing, otherwise I suggest a Rioja or similar Spanish red.
Pork and bean stews e.g. Cassoulet, Feijoada, Fabada
These tend to be quite filling so you don’t want a wine that’s too high in alcohol. A simple medium bodied red, even carafe wine works with Cassoulet. Go for a slightly fuller fruitier wine - maybe an inexpensive Navarra or other Spanish red or a Malbec if the stew is a touch spicier.
Pig is what classic French charcuterie is all about so it seems apt to pair a French wine with it. With its bright fruit Beaujolais works particularly well with preparations like terrines, jambon persillé and rillettes - chose a Beaujolais Villages or cru Beaujolais (Morgon particularly appeals). You could also try a rustic Marcillac or a dry rosé
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