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Oct 25, 2005
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Wine With . . . Roast Pork

by Paul Lukacs and Marguerite Thomas


A boneless pork loin, roasted or grilled until fragrant and bursting with flavors of garlic and rosemary, is something we serve often, whether we're entertaining or just cooking for ourselves.  It's an easy dish to prepare (see the recipe below), and it always tastes good.  As an added bonus, roast pork proves very versatile when it comes to choosing a wine or wines to serve with it.


We've had success with a variety of wines with this dish over the years'some whites, more reds, but many different types.  So when we decided to devote this edition of "Wine With" to wines for our favorite pork roast recipe, we made sure to include a fairly wide range.  We tried sixteen different wines, and while none proved a disastrous match, some clearly performed better than others.  A couple of these were wines that we expected to do well.  We've always liked to pair this dish with Italian reds, particularly those with some Sangiovese in the blend, and we were impressed with a Chianti we tried as well as with the Umbrian wine we're recommending below.  (Another recommendation, Hook and Ladder's "The Tillerman," from California, also includes Sangiovese in the blend.)  But some matches that we thought would shine seemed fairly dull. 


We expected both a full-bodied Chardonnay and a couple of fruit-forward Pinot Noirs to complement the roast; but the Chardonnay we sampled lost its fruit with the pork and so tasted primarily of oak, and the two Pinots we tried (one from Santa Barbara, the other from Oregon) tasted surprisingly sour.  Some other wines, including an Australian Shiraz, a Gigondas from the southern Rhône Valley, and a California Merlot, while all tasty, seemed too powerful for the dish, while by contrast a fresh Beaujolais-Villages ended up seeming watery. 


The five wines that best complemented this dish, though varying in weight and flavor profile, all enhanced the roast by adding a new element to the experience.  In different ways, they made it taste even better than it did without them--which, after all, is the whole point of drinking wine with food.     




Approx. Price



Hook & Ladder,

Russian River Valley


"The Tillerman"









Though dominated by Cabernet Sauvignon (57%) and Cabernet Franc (27%), the jolt of Sangiovese (18%) adds a spicy element that enabled this soft, easygoing wine to fit just right with the rosemary-infused pork.  (Hook & Ladder is owned by Cecil and Christine DeLoach, who no longer own the winery that carries their name.)




Jacob's Creek,

South Eastern Australia




(Imported by Pernod Ricard USA)







This pretty, fresh Riesling surprised us by being a much more satisfactory match than the full-bodied Chardonnay we tried.  The zesty acidity in the finish was in its favor, as was the hint of apple on the palate.  No need for applesauce as a side dish when you serve this wine with pork!




Torgiano (Umbria, Italy) Rosso di Torgiano



(Imported by Paterno)








This elegant Italian red reinforced our belief that Sangiovese-based wines (this one includes 30% Caniolo in the blend) pair well with pork.  Their dry, almost dusty finish seems particularly well-suited to this dish.  With "Rubesco," the light body and plumy fruit flavors underscored the intrinsic sweetness of the meat.




Sicily (Italy)

Sicilia IGT

"Nu Har"


(Imported by Frederick Wildman& Sons, Ltd)






This simple but tasty red from Sicily was just brawny enough to be interesting with the dish without being overwhelming.  Its ripe, red fruit flavors seemed almost chutney-like with the pork.








(Imported by the San Francisco Wine Exchange)








Among the more robust reds we sampled, this was our favorite for the way it teased out a certain gaminess in the pork without overpowering the dish.  In addition, the faint vegetal component often found in Malbec reinforced the pungency of the rosemary.






Pork has been bred to be so lean these days that we find it helpful to add a bit of fat to the dish before we cook it.  This is an optional step, but we do it either by drizzling the roast with olive oil or by wrapping the meat with a few slices of bacon.  In either case, you're not adding all that many calories but are adding lots of flavor.  We also should note that we like our pork faintly pink.  If you prefer yours more well-done, cook it until the internal temperature is 160 rather than 145.



Preheat oven or grill to 500.


1 boneless loin pork roast (The size depends on how many people you are serving.  Figure on half a pound per person, three-quarters if there are hearty eaters.)

2 or 3 sprigs of fresh rosemary

3 or 4 cloves of garlic, sliced into slivers

3 or 4 slices bacon

salt and pepper


Pat the roast dry with a cloth or paper towel.  Then take a chef's knife, and make an incision going lengthwise all the way through the roast.  Insert a rosemary sprig through the incision, going as far into the roast as you can.  (You may need to do this from both sides in order to have the rosemary run all the way through.)

Take your knife, and make small slits on all sides of the roast.  Then put slivers of garlic in all the slits. 

Season the roast liberally with salt and pepper.  Then wrap the bacon around it.


If cooking the pork in an oven, put it in a roasting pan (you don't need a rack), and roast it at 500 for fifteen minutes.  Then reduce the heat to 350, and cook until a thermometer inserted at the thickest point reads 145.  Let it sit for ten minutes before you slice it.


If cooking the pork on a grill, wrap it in aluminum foil and roast it over indirect heat until a thermometer inserted at the thickest point reads 120.  Then discard the foil and remove the bacon.  Finish cooking the roast, turning it once, over direct heat, until a thermometer in the thickest point reads 145.  Let it sit for ten minutes before you slice it.