Wines with ham this Christmas: Styles to look for
Beaujolais (Cru) / Gamay
- Châteauneuf-du-Pape / Grenache, Syrah & Mourvèdre blends
- Shiraz / Syrah
It’s all about the glaze
The one thing you can be sure of is that your ham will be sweet. No self-respecting Christmas ham comes without some kind of a glaze and that is the main factor to take into account in any wine pairing.
Granted, it makes more of a difference when the ham is served hot than it does once it’s cold.
Leftovers, particularly combined with turkey will rub along happily with a decent Beaujolais cru or a fresh young village Burgundy, wines that would taste sharp and weedy with the same ham served hot.
Many glazes have an orange or marmalade component that tends to work well with bright, fruity reds like Australian Shiraz from Barossa or McLaren Vale, or a GSM blend; Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre.
If there’s a degree of heat and spice involved, as is the case with glazes or rubs that use mustard, look to the kind of red that can handle spicy food.
Zinfandel immediately comes to mind, or a good Pinotage.
Both of those wines should also be able to handle the slightly smoky taste you get when a ham is cooked in cola, Nigella-Lawson style – even with the treacle glaze.
If your ham coating is slightly less sweet that could bring into play an Amarone, a wine that is too powerful for the turkey I tend to feel.
And many people’s Christmas favourite, Châteauneuf-du-Pape, can be a winner especially if the ham is served alongside the turkey.
A bit of bottle age could be even better, bringing some complexity to the pairing.
Jean-Baptiste Lemoine, head sommelier at the Goring in London, told Decanter.com that the softer tannins and more complex flavours of aged Barolo or Bordeaux would also work well with a roast ham.
White wines with roast ham
Finally, what about a white?
It’s trickier than a red, I’d say. Again, you want one that can handle the sweetness of the ham. A rich Sémillon, such as one from Australia’s Hunter Valley, is the obvious call; think about the classic ham and pineapple combination.
Otherwise, look to full-bodied whites such as Viognier, or old vine Chenin Blanc from the Cape in South Africa. As a wild card, a grand cru Gewürztraminer from Alsace could be a great match.
See Fiona Beckett’s website, MatchingFoodAndWine.com.
Wines with Christmas ham: Bottles to look for
Wine reviews below added in December 2020.
This article was updated in December 2020 by Chris Mercer, with a selection of wine recommendations from Decanter experts. The article was originally published in 2016. Comments from sommelier Jean-Baptiste Lemoine were added in 2019.