The Ideal Wine To Pair With Your Next Ham

Even before I was a career bartender, I was a member of an "Easter ham" family. Every year, without fail, a glistening pink pork leg would slam down in the middle of our holiday table — and one year, I was finally old enough to enjoy a glass of wine with my holiday meal (rapture). If I knew then what I know now, I probably could have avoided a Hunter S. Thompson-esque montage of hieroglyphic bar scenes with wine-soaked hams ("hams" as in flamboyant theater performers). But, if I had known all that stuff back then, I also totally would have chosen a better wine to go with my first proper ham dinner.

While the whole "red meat goes with red wine" adage is a pretty failsafe guideline, it's also fairly reductive. Ham pairs just as well with white wine as it does red — it's all about picking the right variety. There are, however, three tried-and-true wine pairing rules that we're going to keep in mind for suitably pairing our ham: The wine should always be sweeter than, more acidic than, and have the same flavor intensity as the food. 

When it comes to ham, the primary tasting characteristics are sweet, salty, and varyingly fatty. The unique fat content of your ham might demand a little more acidity from your wine. For these reasons, zesty, citrusy Albariño is the best fit for the job. But, if red is more your style, fruity, deep Nebbiolo is the way to go. 

Contrast with zesty Albariño

My main pick for pairing with ham is Albariño, a crisp, zesty, light white wine from Galicia in northwest Spain. It's both refreshing and high acid, which will cut through the fattiness of the ham and contribute welcome wetness to the palette. Albariño is dry and citrus-forward, unique in that it is refreshing and complex without being sweet. Top tasting notes of grapefruit, lemon, honeysuckle, yellow apple, and orange zest create a profile that is both floral and tart. For optimal tasting, serve chilled but not cold.

La Caña Albariño ($21.99 via is a complex fusion of apple, white flowers, green melon, and sea brine. If you like it a little more citrussy to penetrate the salty ham, Anselmo Mendes makes an incredible budget-friendly Alvarinho ($19.99 via, and the skin-contact prep showcases the rich terroir of the Monção and Melgaço region's prized native grape.

If you can't track down any of this Spanish-Portuguese ambrosia in your local wine shop, another exceptional white is Gewurztraminer wine of Alsace, France. It's fruity and spicy, which balances out the ham's saltiness. Rose, pepper, lychee, and guava are rounded out by funky, distinctive terroir. Trimbach is a terrific melony, honey-forward Gewurztraminer that would pair beautifully with a Springtime Easter ham ($26.99, via

Complement with congruent Nebbiolo

If red wine is more your style, the best variety for pairing with ham is Nebbiolo. Its high natural acidity and prominent tannins create a rich body. In fact, the name Nebbiolo comes from "nebbia," the Italian word meaning "fog" – seemingly a nod to how thick and lush this vino's mouthfeel is. This Piedmontese wine features cherry, rose, and tobacco top notes, helping foodies lean a little more luxurious with their ham dinners. Massolino Langhe Nebbiolo 2020 ($36.99 via is a leathery, masterfully crafted wine with an elegant aroma, smooth palette, and lots of character.

Alternatively, if you prefer reds but aren't as keen on the overall heaviness of the pairing (which is fair), you could keep dinner lighter with a sparkling red. A bubbly mouthfeel would brighten up the rich, salty meat. Two of the most common types of sparkling red wine are Lambrusco and Sparkling Shiraz. With top notes of red fruit and juicy minerality, Lini 910 Labrusca Lambrusco Rosso ($19.99 via Drizly) would let the flavor of the ham shine. Or, if you're preparing that ham dinner for a special occasion, or simply feeling fancy, Castagna Sparkling Genesis ($55 via Wine Searcher) is a terrific Australian Shiraz with notes of sandalwood, pepper, and blackberries that's worth the splurge.