The Classics: Pork & German Riesling

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Two suckling pigs ready to serve at The Boiler Room Restaurant

Suckling pigs are two to six weeks old and have been fed only their mother’s milk. They have a succulence to their meat and crispy skins from oven roasting. Chef Paul Kulik of The Boiler Room Restaurant has been sourcing all of our pork from TD Niche Farms in Elk Creek, Nebraska, where Travis Dunekacke raises heritage-breed pigs such as Red Wattle and Berkshire naturally and organically.  We’re really enthusiastic about their quality and almost beefy flavor, and I’ve found myself selling more German Riesling than in any other restaurant that I’ve ever worked. This irresistible combination is what I call the “pork chops ‘n’ applesauce theory,” and owes its success to the interplay that occurs between the salty richness of pork and the apple sweetness of the off-dry styles of Riesling typical of the Rhein and Mosel regions of Germany.

Sommeliers regularly encounter a bit of resistance when suggesting Riesling because of the varietal’s reputation as a “sweet” wine. The resistance is understandable given that most domestically produced Riesling is semi-sweet to sweet, and most of the U.S. importers of German Rieslings have chosen to specialize in wines that are finished in a sweet style. But Riesling is produced in a broad range of styles, from bone-dry to lusciously sweet, and for that reason it pairs incredibly well with an equally broad range of foods. Bone-dry Rieslings, like those being produced in Southern Australia’s Clare Valley and even the Pfalz region of Germany work incredibly well where a squeeze of lemon might, such as with fish, shellfish, and grilled chicken breasts. And the sweet styles of Riesling, like the Sélection de Grains Nobles (SGN) Rieslings of Alsace, are excellent with custards and desserts containing fruit.

But it is the off-dry kabinetts and spätleses of Germany that sommeliers love to pair with pork, ham, and charcuterie. Whenever I hear “I don’t like sweet wines,” I remind the customer of the delicious combination of pork chops and that ubiquitous jar of applesauce we had growing up, and suddenly the combination of Riesling and pork seems as natural as that childhood favorite.

posted on July 29 2009 by jesse

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