This month’s recipe elicits warm mouthwatering memories of family gatherings. Ham is a staple with our gang, but due to the size of an average ham, it is usually saved for occasions when we can all get together and share… and then for those smart enough to pack a plastic bag or two it can also provide a few delicious ham sandwiches and egg scrambles over the next week or so.
While ham is a beloved fare on many family tables at this time of year, it can prove a bit challenging to successfully pair with wine. Ham can bring salty, smoky, fatty and meaty notes to the party. Add to this the potential enhancements of sweet, savory, spicy, fruity and tart components from the various glazes and sauces that can match well with ham, and you’ve got potential issues…and opportunities!
Grenache is a medium bodied and interesting red wine which can match up to the opportunities of ham, and particularly when coupled with the glaze in this month’s recipe. While Grenache is grown in many parts of the world, it thrives in areas with ample heat, such as Spain, Southern France, Southern Italy, Australia and certain parts of Napa and Sonoma Counties. South America is also producing some interesting examples, which typically go by the Spanish name for the varietal, which is “Garnacha”.
Grenache has the fruit components and structure to pair particularly well with this month’s recipe as the moderate tannins and acidity are enough to hold up to the fat in the ham and the sweetness in the glaze, while the dark red fruit flavors in the wine incorporate well with the honey and the fennel. The gentle spices, tobacco and leather notes in a fine Grenache are a great match for the pepper, smoky and mustard notes. I would caution against a “bottom shelf” Grenache for this dish, as the variety of flavors in the food require more complexity from the wine.
Gather a group, prepare a wonderful main course (even if pork doesn’t fit into your family’s customs) and share some wine to celebrate the wonders of Spring and the joys of getting together to celebrate how fortunate we are. Cheers!
Jeff James is the founder and co-owner, with his wife Judy, of Stony Point Vineyard and James Family Cellars. Their Cotati vineyard and winery have consistently produced award-winning wines. Jeff can be reached at info@JamesFamilyCellars.com or www.JamesFamilyCellars.com