Column: Wines for "hamming" it up at Christmas

After turkey, the most popular dish served at Christmas dinner is ham. There are basically three styles of hams, although many are a combination of that trio. That means there are plenty choices of wines that will match the variety of tastes that ham offers. Basically you want wines that have a kiss of sweetness and a big hug of acidity with bold fruit.

Dry cured, aged hams are thinly sliced, bold flavored hams with a chewy texture and a high salt content, such as Italian Prosciutto and Spanish Serrano and Iberico. Sparkling wine will put you in a festive and celebratory mood, while cleansing the palate after the meaty and salty flavours.

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My suggestions for sparklers include: Louis Roederer Brut Premier (Champagne $68.99), Mumm Napa Brut Prestige, California ($26.49), Segura Viudas Brut, Spain ($15.49) and Stellar’s Jay Brut, BC ($23.49).

If you want to add some colour to the bubbles, there’s Cono Sur Brut Rosé, Chile ($15.99), Thomas Goss Sparkling Shiraz, McLaren Vale, Australia ($23.99), and Lambrusco Reggiano, Italy ($19.99).

Or you could match prosciutto with a tasty table wine such as Masi 2015 Campofiorin Ripasso, Italy ($20.99) or the Spanish dry hams with a dry sherry: Tio Pepe Fino, Spain ($27.99).

A second category is savoury and smokey ham. These range from full-sized fresh hams you can bake to sliced deli ham. Non-glazed ham, black forest ham, ham hocks, Mortadella and even Spam belong in this group.  Because they’re juicier and not as salty as the dry-cured style, they go well with light reds.

New World Pinot Noirs from BC, Oregon, California, New Zealand, and Australia are recommended. Look for BC’s Moraine Pinot Noir ($26) and Tantalus 2017 Pinot Noir (30.44), California’s Meiomi 2017 Pinot Noir ($21.99), New Zealand’s Marisco “The Ned” (19.49), and Cold Stream Hills 2018 Yarra Valley Pinot Noir ($26.99)

Grenache-based reds from France and Australia are also popular choices that match this style of ham. Cotes du Rhone 2017 Halo de Jupiter ($23.99) is an 80: 20 Grenache: Syrah blend. From Australia’s famous Barossa Valley comes Yalumba 2015 The StrapperGSM ($24.99), which is a blend of Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvedre.

If Zins sound appealing with their ample fruit spice and smooth tannins, pick Ravenswood Old Vine 2016 Zinfandel, California, ($22.99) or Rodney Strong 2016 Sonoma Knotty Vines ($23.99).

Sweet and salty ham is our last category. They have a chewy texture and a sweet flavour. Examples include honey-baked ham, glazed hams, back bacon, and char siu (Chinese barbecued pork). If the ham is at the low end of the sweetness scale, then an off-dry wine will work. B.C.’s 2018 Time Riesling ($24.99), Summerhill 2017 Vineyard Riesling ($28), as well as Germany’s Dr. Loosen Riesling, Germany ($17.99) are favourites of mine.

If the ham is sweeter, then a sweeter wine like a Moscato or a White Port would pair well. Look for Ruffino Moscato d’Asti, Italy ($14.99) or Taylor’s Fladgate Fine White Port ($17.99).

Now you’ve got lots of wines to accompany your Christmas ham!

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