The perfect pair: matching prosciutto di San Daniele with wine

By Wanda Mann. Rich and succulent Prosciutto di San Daniele is the definition of edible perfection but pairing it with …


By Wanda Mann.

Rich and succulent Prosciutto di San Daniele is the definition of edible perfection but pairing it with wine takes the flavor of this exceptional Italian aged ham to new heights. Like any successful relationship, the best wine matches for Prosciutto di San Daniele celebrate its finest attributes without overpowering it. And like love, you may have to try a few wines to find your ideal match but there are many delicious options to explore. Since Prosciutto di San Daniele is produced exclusively in the Friuli Venezia Giulia region of Italy, a great starting point for selecting a wine is to follow the adage that “what grows together, goes together.” World-renowned agronomist Marco Simonit is a native of the region and says “Prosciutto di San Daniele together with Terlato Pinot Grigio is a reminder that the best pairings are those that marry the food and wine of a geographical region. Here, both are from the furthest corner of northeastern Italy, on the edge of the Austrian and Slovenian Alps. The sweet complexity of the San Daniele Prosciutto demands a wine that combines rich fruit and bright acidity. And that is exactly what is delivered by this Pinot Grigio from Friuli Colli Orientali; it brims with ripe peach, apricot and pear and finishes with a crisp, satisfying minerality – enhancing the prosciutto and inviting another bite.” Of course, Italian wines beyond Friuli also pair beautifully with Prosciutto di San Daniele.

Gianfranco Sorrentino, proprietor of celebrated Italian restaurants Il Gattopardo and The Leopard at des Artistes in Manhattan, recommends the elegant sparkling wine Franciacorta. “With the delicate sweet taste of Prosciutto di San Daniele that has been aged 13 to 16 months, I suggest the CorteBianca Rosé 2011. This well balanced Franciacorta is delicate and persistent, and its right balance between acidity and body is perfect for the sweetly fruity, enveloping but velvety San Daniele. For the more “Stagionato” San Daniele aged 18 to 24 months, I suggest another Franciacorta: Ca’ del Bosco Cuvée Annamaria Clementi 2006. Its extraordinary finesse and elegant minerality complement the more persistent and mature taste of this aged San Daniele.”

Serena Bass, a James Beard Award winning author and executive chef at Lido restaurant in Harlem, also recommends an Italian sparkling wine – Lamberti Sparkling Rosé from the Veneto region. Take inspiration from the Lido menu and pair it with a crostini topped with lightly fried prosciutto, pears, gorgonzola, and aged balsamic vinegar. Serena describes the flavors as “quite a mouthful but something that makes people smack their foreheads with all the combined tastes and textures and then clean their palates with this lovely wine.”

American wines are also a winning match and Academy Award nominated actor and restaurateur Chazz Palminteri suggests an impressive red from Napa Valley. “The wine I would open when I have San Daniele prosciutto would be Caymus Special Selection Cabernet Sauvignon 1994. Soft, smooth, and elegant; this wine would go great with San Daniele prosciutto. I would be in heaven.” If you visit Chazz’s eponymous restaurant in Manhattan, the menu includes the classic appetizer Prosciutto di San Daniele with fresh melon and the suggested wine pairing is La Scolca Gavi dei Gavi – an elegant and crisp Italian white wine.

Winemaker Luisa Ponzi of Ponzi Vineyards in Oregon suggests an Italian white variety that grows beautifully at their estate – Arneis. “One of my all-time favorite pairings is our Ponzi Arneis with San Daniele Prosciutto and melon. The beautiful acidity and brightness works perfectly with the sweet and salty combination.”

Corey Beck, director of winemaking for Francis Ford Coppola Winery, recommends their red Director’s Cut Cinema 2013. “As a vintage, 2013 will go down as one of California’s best of all time. Our Cinema uses Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel that provides a wonderful cracked pepper characteristic along with our Estate Cabernet Sauvignon from Alexander Valley, which lends a silky texture on the palate. If there ever was a wine made to pair with San Daniele ham it’s our Cinema.” Mary Gorman-McAdams, Master of Wine, recommends “Dry Riesling, whether from Washington State or the Finger Lakes (New York) – the crisp acidity adds a razor sharp contrast to the fat of the meat – lifting the flavors, drawing out the salty savoriness. And the citrus and stone fruit flavors add a delicious fruity contrast that sparks a nuttiness in the meat.” Nicolas Quillé, head winemaker for Pacific Rim winery in Washington State wholeheartedly agrees and says “There are two food groups I cannot get enough of: Prosciutto di San Daniele and a Pacific Rim Dry Riesling. There is nothing better than the sharp acidity of this dry Riesling to match the hint of saltiness and fat (yes, I eat the fat!) of San Daniele Prosciutto. I also love how the intense aromatics of Prosciutto di San Daniele play with the delicate flowery notes of our Pacific Rim Dry Riesling.”
With so many delectable possibilities, you’re certain to find a pairing of Prosciutto di San Daniele and wine that is absolutely perfect for you!

About the Author:
A native New Yorker and daughter of a professional chef, Wanda Mann was born with a passion for food, wine, and travel. Wanda is a Certified Specialist of Wine and is learning to speak Italian one bottle at a time! Wanda stylishly explores the world of wine & food in her popular blog The Black Dress Traveler (