IF WE strictly observe the old, pre-refrigeration advice about needing an R in the month, we can now start eating pork again. Unlike lamb, beef or game, however, there are few clear-cut rules about which wine to drink when we do.
Helped by a group of friends (and, of course, joints of pork loin and belly pork), I did some wine matching “research” to identify a few guiding principles.
Surprisingly, the first conclusion was that, generally, white wine worked significantly better than red. Indeed, and despite some tasty versions in themselves, we could not find a single commendable match with pinot noir. I had expected the lightness of the wine to work well with pork but the acidity proved too intrusive in all six of the bottles we tried.
Syrah, however, possibly being a more rounded wine, fared rather better. 2011 Cono Sur Single Vineyard Block 25 La Palma Syrah (£11.99, Inverarity One to One) formed a comfortable liaison with the belly pork. It has intense black cherry and bramble fruit that mingles well with the meat but, then, a degree of spicy, vanilla tannin enters the fray to neutralise any fattiness; finally, a smoky liquorice finish adds some impressive complexity. Especially with robust accompaniments and sauces, this would be our red wine of choice with pork.
Several different styles of white (including a quality sauvignon blanc) did, however, score well but the precise match depended on the particular meat and its treatment – a sort of porcine version of horses for courses (“pigs for gigs” perhaps). The most delicate of the wines worked best with the tightly grained pork loin especially where it had been cooked in the plainest and simplest way. Our choice here was 2012 MA’D Tokaji Furmint Dry White Wine (£14.50, Cork & Cask, Edinburgh) because of the way it added layers of all-spice embellished tropical fruit, chalky minerality and a lemon edge to its savoury backbone. It out-scored Rhone whites possibly because furmint’s long association with the complex sweet tokaji wines gave it an inside track on texture.
With the sturdier and less delicate belly pork, the overwhelming winner was 2012 Yalumba Y Series Viognier (£9.99, Morrisons). Here, the combination of a zingy, tangerine freshness, ripe and aromatic apricot flavours, depth and viscosity seemed especially agile with the differing components that particular cut brought to the party.
When both styles of pork were considered together, the best all-round fit proved to be a riesling from the Mosel – something no one would have predicted at the outset. I guess the (just) off-dry style of 2011 Finest Steillage Riesling (£7.49, Tesco) replicated, in some respects, the effect of adding apple sauce. Indeed, its principal flavour actually is mellow red apples but that is softened by gentle, perfumed peach undertones, yet all freshened up with a lively grapefruit and sherbet finish. Certainly, for all their intrinsic quality, more austere wines without that extra edge of residual sugar did not do the job anything like as well.
So, when pork is on the menu, there is much to be said for using white wine rather than the red normally associated with roasts. Do, however, avoid over-chilling it as that represses the mellower touches so crucial to the partnership the wine and meat will eventually forge.
WINES OF THE WEEK
2012 La Grille Sauvignon Blanc Loire
France, 12.5 per cent
While rather more measured than Kiwi versions, this is a particularly complex sauvignon for the price, with fresh nettle aromas and tangy grapefruit acidity but with everything neatly rounded out by textured apple-based substance.
£5.99 (down from £6.99 until 17 September), Co-op
2011 Cimarosa Cabernet Sauvignon
Gran Reserva Colchagua Valley, Chile, 14 per cent
Although gran reserva is simply a marketing term in Chile, this fruit-forward cabernet will delight lovers of new world wines. Its juicy and concentrated red cherry fruit is smoothed out by nutmeg-influenced vanilla but kept lively with acidity reminiscent of fresh raspberries.