Pairing Pork

Indulging in exceptional pork dishes when visiting the Prowein show in Germany has become somewhat of a tradition. While they are usually served with a selection of beautiful local beers, the variety of recipes and their interesting sides can make your wine choice quite interesting.

This year, the German’s expert touch with pork has even lead to this tongue in the cheek article by Emile Joubert about South Africans depleting local pork stocks! While the international wine trade can be seen enjoying eisbein, schnitzels and Kassler chops all over Düsseldorf for the few days of the show, it is exactly this versatility of pork that brings somewhat of a wine challenge.

Classified as a white meat, pork done well is juicy and flavoursome and while one could lean towards whites and rosé’s, lighter, juicier reds can be a lovely combination, especially when we are talking comforting roasts. The extensive an expert knowledge of Fiona Beckett is always my go to when it comes to food and wine pairings: “I personally enjoy Northern Rhône and Italian reds with pork: something like a decent Crozes-Hermitage or a Chianti Classico though I know many pork fans prefer a Pinot Noir.” Chef Pieter de Jager makes the most beautiful crispy on the outside, juicy on the inside pork belly on the rotisserie in the laid-back eatery at Leopard’s Leap. (Get Recipe). In winter, I also opt for Pinot Noir, but the more delicate flavours of a Pinot Noir Chardonny is my choice for summer lunches.

Smoking brings another flavour profile and pork loves a bit of smoking – hams, Kassler, bacon… While the earthiness of Pinot Noir still works, I particularly like a fruit-driven Grenache or Syrah, especially when there are barbeque or spicy flavours at play, like with pulled pork. Smoked hams with sweetish glazes, the sort you’ll often find on South African Christmas tables, work well with Chenin Blancs and Rieslings where there is a good balance of sweet fruit and acidity.

For me, the fattiness and texture of crumbed chops and schnitzels are best served with a crisp white while I would suggest meeting the challenge of sweet and sour Asian style pork with a fruitier style.

Charcuterie is often served with a lunchtime glass of wine, but the combination of various cuts, cold fat, smoke and spices can be quite tricky for a good match. Here I would go again with Fiona’s recommendation: “With its bright fruit Beaujolais works particularly well with preparations like terrines, jambon persillé and rillettes – chose a Beaujolais Villages or cru Beaujolais. You could also try a rustic Marcillac or a dry rosé.” I think a slightly chilled Cinsaut or rosé would work beautifully in a South African environment.

But as with all food and wine pairings, it is not only about the main ingredient, in fact, the sides and sauces can often completely change the pairing. While a bit too exotic for my taste, my colleagues at Prowein were delighted with fresh white asparagus and hollandaise alongside their schnitzels. A white with some body and enough freshness seemed to be the winner on the evening. In my opinion Chardonnay and Pinot Noir stay relevant when pork is served with a creamy sauce. When you opt for a apple sauce or side, Chenin Blanc would be my recommendation – perhaps even one with some oak. Is your side the traditional sauerkraut, you are in for a challenge – regardless of whether you are choosing wine or beer. One suggestion is to go for its German cousins,  Gewurtztraminer or Riesling. Luckily I find this not to be a predicament as I just steer clear of the fermented cabbage!

From breakfast to alfresco lunch to fine-dining dinners, pork is a popular ingredient worldwide and South Africans didn’t need last year’s listeriosis crisis to realise how often we use this versatile ingredient. Get the wine match right and you can take a staple to something spectacular!

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