Pairing California Wines With Pork Dishes

If your California geography needs a little assistance, here’s a primer on where The Baconer kitchen is located. We are in Oakland, so travel west and you hit the beautiful Pacific Ocean. Travel south, and you hit brilliant Silicon Valley.

Wine Ideas For Pulled Pork, Ribs, And (Of Course) Bacon

But travel north and you get to what might be the best place in the universe: Napa Valley AKA the Bay Area’s wine country. (And the Central Coast has some pretty kick-ass wineries if you’re willing to be in the car a little longer.)

Yes, we love wine. Don’t get us wrong, we love beer too -- after all, we’ve fully endorsed bacon beer and the local Bacon & Beer Classic is a must-do on our list. But wine is a different, more subtle experience, one that works with food in different ways than beer.

If it sounds like we’ve thought about this a lot, well, we have!

But that’s to your benefit, because now we can tell you all about wine and our favorite meat. And we’re going beyond our usual Subject Matter Expert scope here to tell you about all kinds of pork, not just bacon. But first, a closer look at why wine is freakin’ spectacular with pork.

bacon-and-wine

Why Does Wine Go With Pork

Pairing a wine with a pork dish isn’t exactly a surprise. After all, pork meals have enough varieties that they cover the gamut of possibilities. A pork chop or pork tenderloin provides a hearty traditional meal. Pulled, shredded pork can be used in sandwiches or tacos. Bacon, our resident favorite here, acts as a wonderful side dish or can be used as filling, crust, or wrap for other foods to provide an accent or complementary flavor. With a wide range of food flavors comes a wide range of wine choices. You know what’s great about that? Options!

But at the same time, there are some inherent qualities that constantly deliver. The base flavor of pork -- the delicious savoriness and the tender texture -- is strong in itself.

After all, the mighty power of bacon has to come from somewhere. The cut also impacts just how darn flavorful the pork is; remember, fat is a taste similar to sweet and savory. (If you didn’t know that, here’s when some very smart scientists confirmed this fact several years ago.)

So, what happens with different wines and pork? Let’s break it down into the two basic wine groups:

white-wine-and-bacon

White Wine: The inherent acidity of white wine acts as a bit of a tempering element to the strong flavors of pork. That’s why you’ll often see white wines recommended for even the heaviest and boldest of pork dishes -- barbecue, chops, things with bacon. The acidity breaks through the fat and allows the subtlety of other flavors to come through.

See, this pairing stuff isn’t just about “I like wine and I like pork, so I’ll drink them together”; it’s an actual bit of chemistry where both complement each other to bring out the best (kind of like a coach bringing out the best in a player, except without the yelling and sweat).

Red Wine: Red wine is naturally heavier than white, so in general it is used for more specific situations when eating pork. That is, unless you just totally love red wine and want to drink it with your meal. Then in that case, go for it. But from a pure food science perspective, red wine’s heavier nature makes it suited for one these cases.

First, when it’s a fairly simple cut of meat -- low levels of seasoning, marinade, etc. so that it’s straightforward natural flavor. Second, when sauces are used to balance the meal’s flavors so that it’s not a battle royale for attention with your taste buds.

Super-Excellent Wine/Pork Pairings

Okay, so now that you understand some of the science and chemistry behind it, let’s get to the good stuff: what wines to pair with pork dishes.

wine-and-pork-pairings

Ham: Traditional glazed hams at holiday meals bring both the savory natural flavors of the ham and the sweetness of the glaze. Thus, a great wine pairing should work with both of these. Holiday hams deserve a perfect complement in both flavor and aesthetic. The fruitiness of a rosé works quite well in this situation to both accentuate and boost the flavors of the dish. And if this is around the year-end holidays, the rich color of a rosé also adds a visual component. If you’re into that sort of thing. Otherwise, just eat, drink, and be merry. California recommendation: Domaine Tempier Bandol Rose 2016

Pork Chops: Yum, pork chops. Easy to make and delicious 99% of the time (everyone overcooks some of the time). Whether you marinate them or serve them with the ol’ applesauce, pork chops are a staple and can be as fancy or as down-home as you like. Which means that for wine pairings, it’s best to go simple. Assuming you’ve got a sweet complementary flavor like the standard applesauce, then a simple, elegant chardonnay hits the spot -- that extra bit of flavor helps fill in the proverbial colors in the meal, and the versatility of chardonnay means you can find one tailored to your specific tastes. California recommendation: Sonoma-Loeb Chardonnay Envoy

Pulled Pork: Pulled pork sandwiches are a slow-cooked favorite, and it’s clear that the tasty goodness in these come from the combination of the sauce and the texture of the pulled meat. If you’re going for the standard, that means a pulled pork stewed in BBQ sauce, coleslaw, and a bun. That variety of flavors brings an intensity across the spectrum, from sweet to savory. With that in mind, the perfect wine for that combination is a rosé, something that can effectively fill in the gaps between those extremes while being dry enough to blend in. California recommendation: Truvée Rosé

Ribs: Whether cooked on the grill or in the oven, pork ribs are a favorite -- even though they’re really messy to eat. But that’s okay because they’re delicious, so it’s a fair trade-off! The amount of tangy and spicy in your meal depends on your sauce, but most use a base sauce from tomato and vinegar to give some depth of flavors. That means that a light-bodied red wine pairs quite well with ribs -- in this case, we recommend a zinfandel. California recommendation: Dry Creek Zinfandel

Anything Bacon: We all know about the bacon experience -- it’s salty, savory, it’s got crunch and texture. It’s also got a smoky flavor, and if you get it from The Baconer, it’s got all sorts of bonus flavors Sous Vide-efied into it, like jalapeno. So what wine goes with all of that?

Well, you may actually do best by thinking outside of the proverbial wine box (no, not boxed wine) and going with sparkling wine. The bubbly works great with any sort of crunchy texture, and the lightness of sparkling wine brings the various flavors to the forefront. California recommendation: Roederer Estate’s L’Ermitage 2011

Got the Wine? Now Add the Pork.

So let’s say you have a bunch of wine and you’re curious about different types of pork that might go with it. Why not have a wine-and-pork party where you, you know, drink wine and eat pork all night?

bacon-of-the-month

We think this is an excellent idea -- and even better, we have unique and delicious bacon flavors ready to help with this very important scientific endeavor. This includes jalapeno bacon, bourbon bacon (bourbon flavor + wine = why not?), smoky paprika bacon, and sweet maple bacon. Use it to wrap something, have it as a side dish, or just eat a meal of straight bacon -- it’s bacon so of course it’s good! And if you’re thinking of doing this on a regular basis, then try our Strip Club.

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