It used to be said that pork should only be eaten if there is an ‘R’ in the month. I checked with my local butcher who assured me that this hasn’t been the case for many years. I then bought some man-size pork chops off the rib from him, which were juicy and delicious, a million times better than flavourless pork chops from the supermarket.
So, which wine to pair with pork? When matching pork for our wine club’s wine dinner last year, I took my cue from the Spanish. Good quality pork seems to be very much appreciated in Spain and throughout the south of France, where every part of the animal is used to make cured meats and boudin-style sausages. I matched fillet pork with smooth red Rioja Reserva. The pairing was sublime, and much appreciated by members.
If you look at another red wine area, the south west of France, pork sausages are cooked in a hearty cassoulet with duck confit, beans and plenty of garlic, and served with gutsy Languedoc reds – Minervois, Corbieres, Fitou or a fruity Pays d’Oc/Oc IGP.
But pork can be equally good with white wines, especially if the pork is cooked or served with a fruity sauce, which is often the case. New World Chardonnay is an obvious great all-rounder. Belly pork is very fashionable on menus right now, usually served with a slightly sweet or caramelised sauce. Try Viognier or a ripe medium-dry Pinot Gris. A favourite food and wine match is roast leg of pork, complete with crackling and apple sauce, served with Australian Semillon. Stir-fried pork is lovely with rich round whites like Viognier or Marsanne. Fillet pork with creamy mushroom sauce is great with a round Chardonnay.
Slightly spicy pork can go with either red, white, or a full-bodied rosé – try New World Pinot Noir, Beaujolais, Rhône or Languedoc-Roussillon reds, Merlots, Zinfandel, Semillon-Chardonnay, Roussanne or Gewurztraminer.
A good tip would be to consider the key flavours of the dish, rather than the meat per se. Here are some suggestions:
Les Tannes Marsanne 2012 from Oc has aromas of peach orchards, with a rich round creamy mouthfeel, intensely peachy taste, and a slightly spicy finish. Lovely with or without food, and perfect for cool evenings and medium-weight dishes. About €10.49 from Molloys Liquor Stores.
Yealands Estate Gewurztraminer 2013 is a fab Kiwi wine, new to the market. At 5g of residual sugar it is dry, but comes across as being slightly off-dry due to its rose petal/ Turkish Delight character. Gorgeous texture and long finish. €20, independents.
Villa Maria Private Bin Chardonnay 2011 is a textbook example of well-made oaked Chardonnay which I enjoyed at the New Zealand wine fair. It’s dry with luscious butteriness, yin-yang of citrus and pineapple, balanced by fresh pea. Toasty finish. Great value, I think, at €14.99.
Condé de Valdemar Rioja Reserva 2005 is a long-held favourite for many, and worth seeking out. Gloriously smooth, laden with dark fruit, vanilla, sweet oak; warm, expansive and massive in flavour. This is the wine which made our wine club dinner hum! About €23 from O’Briens, Fresh, Stoneybatter, Village Off Licence, Castleknock.
Domaine de Bisconte Cotes du Roussillon 2011 is a real ‘go-to’ wine to have on hand, with its rich succulent bramble fruits, light lick of spice, and a touch of oak. Terrific with pork and excellent value at around €13. From Baggot St. Wines, Nolans, Drinkstore, Higgins, Next Door, On the Grapevine, Searsons, 64 Wines, Nolans, Lilac Wines, Sweeney’s, The Ice Box, Silver Spoon, Ardkeen, MacGuinness Wines, Wicklow Arms, O’Donovan’s, 1601, No. 21, Bradley’s.
Cono Sur Bicicletta Pinot Noir 2012 is a great standard-bearer for well-made inexpensive Pinot. I interviewed winemaker, Adolfo Hurtado last year, and was very impressed by the quality throughout the range, from entry-level Bicicletta right up to Ocio. There is a delicious, quite subtle overtone of smoke enhancing the vibrant redcurrant fruit. Terrific value at about €12.50, and widely available.