A plate of jamón in a restaurant in northern Catalonia, Spain.
When it comes to a meat that is enjoyed across the Mediterranean, forms of cured pork have spread far and wide. Jamón, prosciutto, and pršut from Spain, Italy, and Croatia, respectively are all similar to some degree, yet share some differences from one another. As to which is the best, that’s not a question to get in to with anyone from one of these three countries as they will always believe that theirs is the best. The most democratic approach is to say that they are all really good and they are best enjoyed within the countries where they are made.
Jamón is stunningly delicious and is pretty much only available in Spain. Export out of Spain is nearly non-existent because the Spanish wisely keep their prized meat safely at home. But when in Spain, it can readily be found and should be had in great quantities once found. When it comes to wines, many people fall prey to the old rule of white with pork and while a white such as Verdejo tastes wonderful with some nice slices of jamón, reds pair with it equally as well due to its heavier qualities. If one is looking for a good red, give Garnatxa (Grenache) a try. Its light qualities go quite well with the jamón and make for a delicious meal with some Manchego thrown in to balance out the palate.
Prosciutto is nothing new to those outside Italy. The Italians export it in great amounts and when paired with a Chardonnay, Pinela, Pošip, or a Zinfandel (or perhaps Primitivo in Italy), the imbiber will be in heaven. Despite the many similarities to jamón prosciutto is indeed different though and in my opinion leans more towards being enjoyed with a white. The buttery tones are so soft that a heavy red easily trounces them and defeats the purpose of having the prosciutto in the first place.
Istrian pršut with olive oil and nuts.
Then there’s the pršut. This cured meat found in Croatia and other regions of the Balkans is very, very similar to prosciutto, thus the nearly similar name. Pršut is often smoked, giving a much more distinct flavor than the generally unsmoked variants. Croats will tell you that there are a great many differences from the Italian types, but at their core, they really are the same meat and both delicious. True to its origins though, pršut pairs very well with the wines in Croatia. Whether it’s a Pošip, Malvazija, or even a Plavac Mali, wine and pršut are great friends. Pošip and Malvazija are always a winning combination for a few slices of pršut and some Paški Sir (cheese from the island of Pag), but the Plavac is just as good when the mood strikes. It’s one of the beauties of Plavac in that is pairs well with foods, especially new arrivals like the Lirica that we’ve started carrying.
So, which combination is best? I’m just not going to touch that subject and risk a lynching. They are all good and it’s up to people to find which they like best. For those in the US, this is probably going to mean pairing something with a prosciutto because it’s just so much easier to find, although Jamón Iberico can be found in very limited amounts these days from a few importers. Unfortunately genuine Croatian pršut hasn’t reached the US yet and the Croats, much like the Spaniards are probably happy to keep as much of it as possible at home.