One of the true joys of Italian wine comes in the fact that you can pair different wines with so many types of food.
Of course, any food is a good candidate for pairing. You just need to think about what the food has to offer and use a wine that complements the flavours of the food.
But there’s no denying that the best way to enjoy Italian wine is to pair it with great Italian food. Anybody who’s been to a restaurant or bistro in Italy will be able to tell you that.
Simply put, Italian people know what to pair with their food. In fact, many regions take pride in the fact that they produce wines that pair well with the foods that their regions are known for.
That, in a roundabout way, brings us to the subject of today’s article.
If you’re lucky, you may have had the joy of eating the famous Parma Ham. Also known as Prosciutto, this may well be the single most famous type of ham in the world.
Here we’re going to take a look at this wonderful food. And then, of course, we’re going to point you in the direction of a few Italian wines that we think work very well with it.
The Special Ham
Parma Ham immediately separates itself out from other types of ham due to the fact that it carries the Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) label.
This isn’t any old ham that you can get from any old pig. In fact, most farmers in the world are simply not able to produce Parma Ham. It can only come from a certain location and it must meet many conditions to carry the designation.
One of these is the fact that the ham must be 100% natural. There can be no tampering with the animal or use of any foreign substances in its rearing. Pigs that are destined to become Parma Ham experience very comfortable and natural lives, all of which serves to make the taste of the eventual meat all the more stunning.
There are plenty of other things that separate Parma Ham from other types too. For example, the production process is completely different too. This is a type of dried ham, which means producers have to take a few more steps to prepare it after slaughtering the animal.
This drying process also makes the Parma Ham a very lean meat. There are very few fats in the ham, which makes it a great addition to a low-fat diet. You get a great dose of iron and protein, with little of the fat that often comes with them.
On top of all of that, the many mineral salts that are used in the production of the ham lend more to its taste. Plus, it’s packed full of vitamins and antioxidants too.
Simply put, it’s one of the healthiest meats around. And it sacrifices exactly nothing in taste to achieve those health benefits.
The Production Process
As mentioned, Parma Ham can only come from one location. This is the hills that surround the Italian town of Parma.
The ham also undergoes a very traditional process during production. This process has existed since the days of the Romans, which may make Parma Ham one of the oldest foods available when it comes to foods that undergo special production methods before sale.
There’s also a regulatory body, known as the Consorzio del Prosciutto di Parma, that checks every product that calls itself Parma Ham. If it comes from the wrong place or doesn’t use the correct production methods, the ham cannot carry the Parma name.
In fact, these checks are so stringent that they’re approved by the EU. It’s illegal for a ham to carry the Parma Ham label if it doesn’t meet these conditions.
These brings up an important point. Counterfeiting is always an issue with Italian wines and food. How do you know that you have a legitimate Parma Ham?
The answer is that you look for a stamp of something called the Ducal crown. This five-pointed crown is the official certification trademark of the ham and should reassure you that the ham you have is legitimate Parma Ham. The crown also has the word PARMA printed in the centre, just in case you were in any doubt.
The Wines That Pair Well With it
Parma Ham works well as an aperitif, but it’s also a great food to combine with others to create a tasty dish. Which route you go depends on your preferences, but we’re going to share a few wine choices that work well with the taste of the ham itself.
The versatile nature of the ham means that it pairs remarkably well with a wide range of white and red wines.
However, our particular favourite is pairing it with a sparkling white to create a tasty aperitif. And if you hear the term sparkling white wine, you have to know that a mention of Prosecco isn’t too far behind. And it’s true that Italy’s most popular sparkling wine also complements the meat superbly. However, we’d also make an argument that Franciacorta deserves a look if you want to go the sparkling white route.
But of course, the sparkling wine that works best with the ham is one that comes from the region of Parma itself. Malvasia is a tasty sparkling wine that perhaps doesn’t have the recognition that it deserves in other territories.
Whichever you choose, sparkling whites work well because they clear the palette ready for the next taste.
But we’ll leave you with a final bit of advice. It’s best to avoid pairing Parma Ham with a wine that has strong tannins. These tannins have a habit of overpowering the meat, which makes for a less pleasant dining experience.
Of course, you can find these wines on the Xtrawine website, and we encourage you to experiment with a few of your own choices.