Nothing elicits a symphony of oohs and aahs more than a plate piled high with ribbons of Speck Alto Adige PGI. This distinctly flavored, smoked and cured ham from northern Italy is a crowd-pleaser that makes for a fun and delicious centerpiece for your next wine pairing party.
We’ve compiled some fun facts for introducing Speck Alto Adige PGI to your guests, plus three creative ways to approach pairing wine with this tasty treat.
- Speck is made in Alto Adige, the northernmost province of Italy, where a unique combination of Alpine landscape and Mediterranean culture influence its flavor and history.
- It has a lighter flavor than the smoked hams of the Alps, but is more robust than the Mediterranean-influenced Prosciutto di Parma.
- There are 29 authorized producers of Speck Alto Adige PGI. While these producers follow the regulations of the PGI (protected geographical indication), each uses their own variation on the spice mix used to flavor the speck. These recipes are protected, although rosemary, bay leaf, juniper, salt, and pepper are definitely used.
- Only two of these 29 producers currently export Speck Alto Adige PGI to the United States: Recla and Senfter.
- Speck made in the U.S. is often easier to find than Speck Alto Adige PGI from Italy, so if you want to experience the culture and terroir of the land where speck originated, seek out or ask for speck with the PGI designation.
How to pair wine with Speck Alto Adige PGI
- Classic Gewurztraminer. The most traditional and reliable wine pairing for Speck Alto Adige PGI is a crisp, floral Gewurztraminer from the village of Tramin, located in Alto Adige. Gewurztraminer from Alsace is perhaps more well-known, however only a bottle made from grapes grown in Alto Adige will embody the flavors of the region. Gewurztraminer loves smoked food and ranges from off-dry to dry, sometimes with a spritz (fine bubbles). Try a few variations and discover which pairings are your favorite!
- Wines from Alto Adige. Like Gewurztraminer, wines produced in the same region as Speck Alto Adige PGI share a terroir that make them simpatico. As we mentioned, only two producers are available in the U.S.
Recla speck is immediately identifiable by its aromatic, herbaceous, smoky flavor. It has a uniform dark brown rind and, when cut, a vibrant red interior with bright white marbling. It is firm to the touch and tender on the palate. Pair with an Alto Adige Kerner, a sleek and spicy white wine with aromas of tangerine, melon, and passion fruit.
Senfter’s Bauernspeck has flavors of butter and walnuts lent by a deliberately thicker band of fat. This band delivers sumptuous flavor and guarantees the speck is never too salty, hard, or chewy. Pair with Sylvaner, a white that is robust in both body and acidity, with notes of fresh herbs and hay, apples, peaches, and mint.
- Bubbly. The high saltiness factor of any cured meat begs to be balanced by refreshing bubbles.
Prosecco is a particularly handsome pairing with Speck Alto Adige PGI, especially when made in Veneto, a province directly south of Alto Adige. The wine’s fruity flavors of green apple, honeydew melon, pear, and honeysuckle complement speck’s natural sweetness and contrast nicely with its saltiness.
For a more daring pairing, try a dark red frizzante Lambrusco. Deep, bittersweet notes of berry pair nicely with the speck’s smokiness, while the bubbles cleanse your palate between bites.
Photo credit: Manuela Tessaro