Wines to drink with Christmas ham

Expert food and wine writer Fiona Beckett gives her advice on which bottles to open with a traditional Christmas ham.

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 flavoured 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 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.

Finally, what about a white? Trickier than a red, I’d say – again you want one that can handle the sweetness. A rich Australian Semillon is the obvious call (think ham and pineapple) otherwise look to full-bodied whites such as Viognier and old vine Chenin Blanc from the Cape in South Africa. Or, as a wild card, a grand cru Gewürztraminer from Alsace.

See Fiona Beckett’s website, This article was originally published in 2016 and has been updated in December 2018 with links to new Decanter wine recommendations.  

Wines with Christmas ham: Recommendations



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