Baked Ham Recipes

Baked Ham Recipes
Photo by Photo by William Dickey; Styling: Mary Lyn Hill Jenkins, Southern Living

Baked ham is a classic holiday dish and one that poses several problems for wine pairing. The ham on its own tends to be on the salty side of the flavor spectrum, and tradition dictates that it be coated in a sweet glaze, further complicating the situation.

Let’s start with the salty component of the ham. Salt is one of the basic flavors we taste, along with sourness, bitterness and sweetness. Traditionally, we have found the pairing of sweetness and saltiness to be a successful one. Sourness works well too, as in the case of a margarita served in a salt rimmed glass. This suggests a wine pairing that offers both some sweetness and some acid kick. Indeed, one of the most successful pairings would be a great Alsace Pinot Gris, which has some acidity and some sweetness in addition to a bit of a spicy aspect that plays well with the ham. Vouvray can also work wonders with ham, particularly if it has some age on it as age allows for the development of some meaty fruit flavors.
If you layer a sweet glaze on your ham, shoot for something even sweeter than those two wines. Sugar in food serves as a basis for a complementary wine pairing, so the wine you serve with a sweet dish should have a comparable level of sweetness. Without that, the sweetness of the dish will leave your wine tasting simple and sour. Riesling is an ideal match, though sweeter Pinot Gris and Vouvray still work well. A surprising option would be a sweeter Alsace Gewürztraminer. If you’re feeling adventurous, a Lambrusco, the sparkling red wine from Italy, can also make for an amazing pairing experience.
If you prefer a red wine with your ham, try to leave the sweet glaze out of the recipe and match the meaty, smoky flavors of the ham with meaty, smoky wines like Syrah from the Northern Rhone or other cool climates. Also consider Mourvedre-based wines like those from Bandol in France or Jumilla in Spain. 


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