White or red wine with pork?

White or red wine with pork

Not everyone is clear on whether pork goes best with red or white wine, and that’s because it can go with both! It just depends on the cut and how it’s prepared. Pork is one of the most versatile kinds of meat. From grilled pork chop to roast pork loin, pulled pork sandwiches with barbecue sauce, sausages, and even charcuterie boards, there are vastly different cuts and preparations and for each dish there may be a different recommended wine food pairing.

For a roast pork loin, there’s nothing better than full-bodied white wines, think an oak-aged Chardonnay from Napa or Sonoma. If you prefer a red wine, choose a lighter-bodied wine like a Pinot Noir. Roasted pork tenderloin is almost like having a filet. Pair it with a Chianti or Nebbiolo-based reds like Barbaresco or Nebbiolo d’Alba.

If you’re barbecuing ribs and serving them with a spicy glazed sauce, you’re better off with a wine that can stand up to the heat, think a Red Zinfandel, or a jammy Shiraz or Syrah. Going out for dinner? You may see pork belly on the menu. Pork belly is a high fat dish and because of that you want a high acid wine to help cut through the fat. A Riesling or a Chenin Blanc will do just fine. If you order prosciutto or are having Spanish food and get a jamón tapa, you’ll find both Italian and Spanish white wines go exceptionally well with cured meat. From Italy, try a Sauvignon Blanc from Alto Adige or Friuli. From Spain, a Rioja Blanco or a Verdejo will pair nicely with both cured meats and cheeses.

There are different wine food pairing recommendations for different cuts of pork, from tenderloin to pork chops and sausages

More about pork

While pork is traditionally thought of as white meat, in scientific terms, it’s actually considered red meat. The reason we often call it white is many popular cuts taste like white meat, for example a boneless pork chop or a roast pork loin. Others, like pork tenderloin medallions, are more like red meat.

The thing to remember is pork varies widely. It can be quite fatty or it can be leaner and rich in flavor. It’s a combination of the cut, the mode of cooking and the sauce that will influence which wines pair best with which dishes.

Top 7 white wines with pork

  1. Oak-aged Chardonnay. Chardonnay comes in different styles. It can be aged in oak or in stainless steel, but for pork dishes an oak-aged wine will usually be better. That’s because you want a wine with bolder flavors to stand up to the richness of the meat. They make beautiful Chardonnays in California but you can also go for a wine from Burgundy or to try something new, look for an Australian wine which will have citrus notes with a hint of oak.
  2. Chenin Blanc. Chenin Blanc can range from bone dry to sweet. For pork, you want a dry or medium-dry style wine. You can get honey, herbal and apple notes with this wine and it will go well with roast pork loin rolled with dried fruits. They make dry Chenin Blanc in South Africa. If you’re looking for a French wine, it will be from the Loire region and called Vouvray or Savennières. Note, Vouvray is often off-dry which means it can have some sweetness to it.
  3. Riesling. With Riesling you also want a dry (called Trocken if it’s from Germany) or medium-dry style wine. Riesling is a white wine with good citrus and green apple flavors alongside high acidity. Look for a German or Alsatian Riesling. It will go well with anything from a leaner roast pork loin to a barbecued dish with more seasonings.
  4. Pinot Gris or Grigio. Pinot Gris from Oregon, Alsace or the Friuli area of Italy, where they use the Italian name, tends to have a bit more body and richer flavor that can be good for different roasted pork loin dishes.
  5. Rhône Whites. White wines from the south of France, particularly the Rhône area, tend to be Viognier or Marsanne/Roussanne blends that have good stone-fruit and hints of sweetness in the finish. When you’re serving pork loin with roasted apple, or a pork chop cooked in a mustard and rosemary sauce, they make a beautiful pairing.
  6. Sauvignon Blanc. Sauvignon Blanc is one of the most popular whites today. If you enjoy the tropical fruit and gooseberry wines they make in New Zealand, you can definitely have these with pork. They go exceptionally with barbecued meat or Asian dishes that have some spice to them.
  7. Chablis. Chablis is 100% Chardonnay from France but it doesn’t have the strong oak flavors that other Chardonnays do. It tends to be a more clean and fruit-driven wine, with good citrus flavors. This wine goes well with more delicate dishes where you don’t want the wine to overpower the food.
For red wines that go with pork try Pinot Noir, for white whites try Chardonnay or Riesling

The best red wine pairings for pork

Look for wines that are lower in tannins and more light to medium in body. You also want wines that have good acidity to help balance the fat in certain cuts.

Pinot Noir

Pinot Noir is an excellent wine for pork. It’s fruit-forward and lighter in body. It will work if you’re having roasted pork loin, a pulled pork sandwich or an Asian noodle dish. You can find Pinot Noir from Burgundy in France. Just keep in mind wine from Burgundy can be quite expensive. Oregon, California and New Zealand also make beautiful Pinot Noir.

Chianti

Chianti is a Sangiovese-based wine that’s medium in body with red fruit flavors and notes of herbs, cherry, leather and even orange-peel. They make this wine in Tuscany and you’ll find different quality levels from Chianti Classico to a Chianti Classico Riserva. As you go up in level, the wine will be fuller-bodied and aged longer in oak before release.

Malbec and Merlot

If you’re having a barbecue or a roasted pork loin, these fuller-bodied wines will both work. Malbec and Merlot are grapes that originated in Bordeaux, France. They have softer tannins than Cabernet Sauvignon, which makes them better choices for a wine food pairing with pork. You can find some excellent Malbec from Argentina that will have chocolate and spice flavors and complement a good barbecue marinade. You can pick up a Merlot blend from Bordeaux or look for a wine from California.

Syrah and Shiraz

These wines are made with the same grape, it’s just that Syrah, which comes from the Rhône region of France, is also grown in Australia where they call it Shiraz. Shiraz has a slightly different flavor profile than Syrah. You’ll find blackberry, raspberry, black currant, and a spiciness to Shiraz that goes well with spicy barbecued pork sausages and smoky dishes. Syrah is a bit more refined with red fruits and hints of black pepper, alongside bacon fat aromatics. You can serve this wine with pork tenderloin cooked in a balsamic glaze.

Red Zinfandel

Red Zinfandel is a wine with strong blackberry and fruity notes. It can have a lot of spice to it and is generally fuller flavored. Pair it with smoky and/or spicy dishes.

Grenache-based reds

Grenache is a grape from the southern Rhône area of France that actually originated in Spain. Wines like Châteauneuf-du-Pape and many Côtes du Rhônes have rounded fruit and some spice to them. They also won’t be too heavy in tannins which makes them a good pairing if you’re having pork loin.

Wine from Spain is good with pork

If you’ve spent time in Spain or like to frequent tapas restaurants, you’ll know Spanish food has a lot of pork in it. It makes sense then that Spanish wines are a good pairing! Try Spanish reds from the Rioja area. A Rioja Crianza can be quite lively with tangy fruit, including strawberry and cherry. It’s the perfect wine for sausages or more simple preparations with lighter seasonings, as well as charcuterie. Pour a Reserva level Rioja with tenderloin medallions.

Is there any wine to avoid?

It’s not necessarily that you want to avoid a wine like Cabernet, it’s just that you risk overpowering the food as Cabernet can be quite tannic and heavy. If you do want a Cabernet-based wine, say a wine from Bordeaux, save it for a smoked pork dish. Smoked shoulder tends to be a slower preparation. It can have a higher fat content so it’s often cooked for hours and served with a rich sauce. Here’s where reds like a Cabernet blend from Bordeaux or a California Cabernet will work nicely.

Which wines go best with the flavors in roasted pork loin - try this list of recommended red and white wine

The perfect wine pairings for different cuts and preparations of pork

  • Pork loin. For a tender pork loin, try pairing a bottle of Syrah from the northern Rhône area, like a Côte-Rôtie or a St. Joseph.
  • Pulled pork sandwich. A nice pairing option for pulled pork is a rosé. This is especially true if you’re having the sandwich for lunch. Rosé is a bit lighter than a red, and more full bodied than a white, but still refreshing.
  • Suckling pig. There can be different ways to prepare suckling pig, so there’s no one best wine. If the meat is slow cooked and roasted, try a Pinot Noir pairing.
  • Pork sausages. With sausages, pair a Shiraz or for a white, an Albariño from Spain. That’s because you need a wine that can stand up to the heavy seasonings and these wines make the perfect pairings for food with a lot of spice.
  • Bone in or boneless pork chop. Pork chops can be grilled, sautéed, or oven-cooked and they are often leaner cuts of meat. For preparations with herbs and mustard seasonings, have a choice of both a red and a white wine. Go with a Chianti Classico and for a white, a Mount Etna Bianco from Sicily. Both have good acidity and are medium in body.
  • Sweet honey-glazed ham. If you’re serving a dish with some sweetness to it, pick up a German Riesling Kabinett. It’s a wine that has rich fruits with good acidity that will give the meal the balance you’re looking for.
  • Pork belly. This is a juicy, high fat plate and so you need a white wine that’s also high in acid to go with it. Pork belly can be really tender with crunchy skin and a lot of flavor. A wine like Soave from Italy that has peach and stone-fruit notes makes a nice pairing.
  • Pork schnitzel or pork milanese. Try a Nebbiolo D’Alba which will have dark cherry and hints of tar and make a nice pairing with both dishes.
  • Pork-based stew. The meat in stews tends to be rich and juicy and you’ll often find stews are cooked in tomato-based sauces. Pair an Italian wine like a Valpolicella Ripasso which will have cherry notes and more body to it. You could also open an Arneis from Piedmonte in Italy.
  • Food pairing
author

Freddy is a retired wine professional and wine educator who was Vice President of the sixth largest wine importer and wholesaler in the United States for over 40 years. He currently works as a wine consultant and collaborates with his daughter to write articles that help people learn about wine.

Brian Keeping
Reviewer

Brian Keeping

Brian is an avid wine enthusiast and wine educator who has spent 45+ years in the fine wine industry. From 1975 to 1994 he was part owner and sales director of Silenus Wines and from 1994 to 2021 served as Fine Wine Director at Carolina Wines & Spirits.

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