Local, sustainable, authentic: These are today’s buzzwords, but decades and centuries ago, people had to eat this way. While snacks made from the humble pig have long been central throughout Europe, styles have come to vary wildly across the continent. Here, discover some of the most popular categories, each suffused with local culture, and what to pair with them.
Sausages, or bangers, are much-loved. The Cumberland is a coarse, raw pork sausage that’s traditionally shaped in a coil and known for its pronounced pepperiness. Short, plump Lincolnshire sausages, on the other hand, are dominated by sage. Dry English cider goes well with either.
In Sweden, Falukorv—a large, curved link of cured, fine-ground pork sausage that’s similar to a hot dog—is often served hot alongside aquavit or beer. Danish medisterpølse is a coarse, raw pork sausage. It’s often slightly sweet, made with onions and allspice, and most popular at Christmas. Often accompanied by beets, Pinot Noir will work.
Hungary & Poland
Paprika and garlic dominate the boiled and smoked kolbász of Hungary, part of many wintry stews. Its Polish cousin, kielbasa, lines the stomach for vodka and beer. Fine-ground, dried Hungarian szalámi offers plenty of both sweet and hot paprika. It goes well with a lighter, unoaked Kékfrankos, the local name for Blaufränkisch.
Grilled Käsekrainer, a coarse-ground hot dog lookalike, enjoys cult status. Slightly smoked, accented with garlic and pepper, and containing bits of cheese, Grüner Veltliner is an excellent match, but at a sausage stand in Vienna, it’s more authentic to order the local lager, Ottakringer.
From tiny, herby, grilled Nuremberg bratwursts and Munich’s veal-based weisswurst, to pink, fine-ground and smoked Frankfurters, anything goes in sausage-loving Germany. Pfälzer Leberwurst, made with pork and pork liver, deserves particular mention. This spreadable delight is seasoned with marjoram, pepper and nutmeg, and most certainly calls for dry Riesling.
France offers a full sausage spectrum. There’s dried, herbes de Provence-seasoned Saucisson Sec in the south, and smoky Montbéliard and Knack up north. Refined Cervelas de Lyon consists of smooth pork studded with truffle or pistachio, while smelly and coarse Andouillette is made from pork intestines. Local wine for local sausage is the rule.
Both garlic and paprika are central to Portugal’s linguica and chouriço, coarse, raw pork sausages that are often grilled. Garlic and paprika also feature alongside bay leaf and wine in Butelo de Vinhais, a chunky, smoked salami. A hearty red from Trás-os-Montes will suit both.
Chorizo is probably Spain’s best-known sausage. It’s very coarse-cut pork, seasoned with paprika, then smoked and dried. Some others to look out for are butifarra, a rustic, raw pork sausage for grilling, and morcilla, made from pork blood. Again, local selections rule when it comes to wine.
Subtly spiced mortadella, flecked with lumps of white pork fat and sometimes green pistachio, is at home in Bologna. Cotechino, a fatty pork sausage, is traditionally sliced into rounds cooked with lentils on New Year’s Eve. Fizzy, dry Lambrusco is an ideal match for both.
The strong flavor of finocchiona, the fennel-scented salami of Tuscany, was used in the past to numb palates to rough country wines. Today, it’s great with Chianti, as is Lardo di Colonnata. This pork fat flavored with pepper, salt, sage and rosemary and cured in tubs made from local marble is perfect on unsalted Tuscan bread.
Calabrian ’nduja is a spreadable salami whose bright red color signals its chile and paprika heat right away. Salsiccia alla salentina, from southern Puglia, is made from pork and lamb and seasoned with lemon peel and dry white wine. A glass of Bombino Bianco will be a match for both.
Loukaniko is a wonderfully aromatic, coarse pork sausage may also contain lamb and is seasoned with orange peel, garlic, coriander, oregano and fennel seed. Best grilled over charcoal or wood, it comes alive with a lightly chilled, unoaked Xinomavro.