Best Wine to Pair With Pork Chops
I know my mother shied away from cooking pork chops in the 1970s when the scare was on regarding worms from undercooked meat. Although she was a wonderful cook, what resulted on our plates looked like a piece of pink leather. Trichinosis is no longer a problem in the U.S., as pigs are no longer fed slop or raised in the mud. More recently, some folks think about the swine flu when they consider eating pork chops, but the World Health Organization stated that the swine flu is not passed through meat.
Having established that pork is safe to eat, let me now declare that PORK IS DELICIOUS! What beats a couple of thick, juicy chops on your plate, whether plain or enhanced? After choosing the sauce and method of cooking for this flexible meat, the chef must decide which wine. First, red or white? Pork can easily go both ways. A panel of wine experts, including one winery operations director, one restaurant owner and two sommeliers offer their recommendations. Enjoy their eclectic preparations and well-matched wine partners.
Pork chops are a particularly versatile dish, one that will go with a variety of wines, both white and red, depending on the sauce or preparation used, or depending on the diner’s mood.
If the preparation involves a butter or cream sauce, I would go for a richer Chardonnay or a spicy Gewürztraminer. Navarro’s Gewürz from Anderson Valley is widely available and a great value. Great Chardonnay on the richer side with good acidity can readily be found in Santa Barbara County, including Longoria Rita's Crown, Sandhi Sanford & Benedict, Sanford Sta. Rita Hills and Tyler Bien Nacido.
If the pork chops are going to be accompanied by savory side dishes, like mushrooms or bacon-laced potatoes, I would definitely go with a more savory wine. A range of lighter red wines would work well in this case—lighter Grenache-based wines or lighter style Zinfandels. In any case, you want to make sure the wine you go with has good acidity to stand up to the meat. Some suggestions that will definitely fit this bill include Qupé Grenache Sawyer Lindquist Vineyard, Two Shepherds Grenache Saralee's Vineyard, Puccioni Zinfandel Old Vine and The Terraces Zinfandel Napa. Richard Jennings, IntoWine.com Featured Contributor and the Founder RJonWine.com.
Growing up in the south, I cannot understand why my mother abused pork chops all those years. Paper thin, extremely well done, and basically flavorless. Today, pork is the other white meat; it is extremely adaptable in the kitchen, taking on a supportive role behind many preparations. I usually like to bring a little spice to the mix: maybe a Cuban slant with cumin, lime juice and cilantro, seared off and finished in the oven, then served with black beans and rice. For wines, I like to go to Spain for old vine garnacha or tempranillo from Rioja, Toro or Ribera del Duero. I am also often drawn to zinfandel with its forward fruit and abundance of spice, particularly in the fall. I will sear a pork chop and top it with a ragout of figs, dates, provincial herbs, caramelized onions, red wine and chicken stock. All nestled on a bed of mashed sweet potatoes – true comfort food. – Gregg Lamer, Director of Retail Operations, Rutherford Hill & Alderbrook Winery at Terlato Wines International, Rutherford, CA.
Pork is the most versatile of proteins to pair with wine. Just change the accompaniments and you can change the wine. Currently, we have a Grilled Kurobuta Pork Porterhouse on the menu with spring onions, English peas and morel mushrooms that is my favorite to pair with reds and whites. A small production of 2007 Mourvedre La Clarine Farms in Somerset, El Dorado County, is my top pick for a pork dish. Not only does La Clarine Farms make great wine but the goat cheese is becoming very popular as well. The earthiness of the wine, supple texture and spicy finish enhance the juiciness of the pork and heighten the fresh morels. This wine is available for just $15 a bottle and will quickly become your house wine. – Tracey Berkner, Owner and Sommelier, Taste Restaurant, Plymouth, CA & The Union Pub & Inn, Volcano, CA.
Master Sommelier Chris Blanchard claims “It depends on the sauces and sides, but I would do an Alsatian riesling or an old school tempranillo.” – Chris Blanchard, Master Sommelier, Chappellet Winery, St. Helena, CA.
(Editor's Note: Alsatian rieslings tend to be on the drier side to complement many of the sweet preparations applied to pork chops, such as red balsamic vinegar glazes, honey-dijon mustard sauces or apple treatments. In fact, Alsatian riesling is very dry, while possessing the typical characteristics of rieslings from other areas: perfumy, mineral, floral, fruity and even petrol aromas coupled with intense acidity on the palate. Tempranillo is a food-friendly wine tending towards flavors of strawberries and cherries, but often offset by an earthy minerality. Pork chops prepared with rosemary and garlic unite beautifully with a good tempranillo.)
Focus: Embellishment. Pork chops are very meaty with a neutral flavor. Thus, the wine selection will depend on the cooking method, sauce/marinade/brine/etc.: the factors influencing flavor. The deeper the flavor, the bigger the wine can be. I like medium-range reds such as grenache, sangiovese, barbera and tempranillo from both Old and New World, depending on how the pork is embellished. – Yoon Ha, Sommelier, La Toque Restaurant, Napa CA.
Pork and Pinot! Pinot and pork. Like enthusiasts of the annual Pigs & Pinot celebration in Healdsburg, California, I love the two together. Pigs & Pinot held its fourth annual affair in March 2009, at the Hotel Healdsburg, featuring both dining and educational events.
I’m going back to my original vision of the old-fashioned pork chop on the plate. Not our mothers’ dry, tired pork chops, but today’s grilled, juicy version. No embellishment necessary other than salt, if desired. The first time I tasted such an animal was in the early 80s in a meal cooked by my [now] father-in-law. So simple, but melting in the mouth. The earthiness of some pinot noirs, like that found in Marimar Estate’s 2005 Doña Margarita Vineyard Sonoma Coast version, makes a complete connection with the earthiness in the meat. Add a few grilled mushrooms and you have an Earth Fest! The Marimar Pinot Noir (awarded 96 points by Wine Enthusiast, by the way) also uncovers a healthy dose of dark fruit to round out the flavor profile of the meal. – Paula Barker, Wine Writer, IntoWine.com, Napa, CA.
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