BEST CHAMPAGNE had the pleasure of interviewing José Gomez, President of JOSELITO, the best ham in the world and one of the best food ever to accompany champagne.
Champagne and food pairing traditionally revolved around foie gras, caviar, and oysters.
This is changing, however as these foods are not necessarily appreciated by everybody, although they remain solid partners of champagne.
Nowadays, champagne tastings are more often accompanied by more popular, yet excellent culinary produces, and in particular with Iberico ham and Parmesan cheese.
Also called “Pata Negra” because of the black hoof of the pig used to make this ham, Jamon Iberico stands firmly as the N1 gastronomic product of Spain.
Its superior fat penetrates the meat producing an extraordinary sensorial experience in the palate, leaving a fatty coating in which the distinctive freshness of champagne beautifully cut through.
Among the many Iberico producers, JOSELITO has gained the title of the best, thanks to the distinctive taste of its hams, which results, just like for the best champagne producers, from a total commitment to quality.
Not only that, President José Gomez is also crazy about champagne. He not only enjoys this special wine for its great taste but it is for him a constant source of inspiration in the development of the JOSELITO brand.
As he puts it, “Champagne has created a cult of luxury around it. Its aura is intimately linked to special moments of celebration, creating a magical atmosphere.”
We couldn’t agree more!
Read on and enjoy, with a glass of champagne and few slices of JOSELITO that you can buy on their web. A new world of pleasure will open to you.
BEST CHAMPAGNE: Joselito has been declared the best ham in the world. What are the origins of this status?
JOSÉ GOMEZ: A few years ago the Champagne House DOM PERIGNON wanted to explore pairings of its wines with ham, and for this, they asked two French journalists specialized in gastronomy to identify the best ham in the world.
They visited all the ham denominations of origin, tasting and pairing hams with champagne, and in the end, they chose Joselito as the best ham.
Therefore, DOM PERIGNON organized a tasting of different vintages of his champagne, from 1955, with different vintages of JOSELITO.
This event has been one of the most exciting and curious experiences of my life.
BC: What is the origin of the excellence of JOSELITO hams?
JG: The secret is in the fat. The ham has to have good fat, that’s where a JOSELITO ham stands out.
And the quality of the fat depends a lot on the feeding of the pigs, and in particular, whether they eat grass or not, which depends on the rain.
The grass causes the animal’s fat to oxidize less, and therefore last longer in time. For this same reason, you can not make the same JOSELITO ham every year, since the climate varies, and this will have an impact on the final flavor of the ham.
Thanks to this quality fat coverage, our hams can be cured for more years, from 5 to 10 years and even more, compared to 2 or 3 years for other hams.
But for this extended curing, our hams must also be of exceptional quality, which requires a great raw material.
Each JOSELITO pig enjoys between 2 and 4 hectares of pasture, in its indigenous territory that is the southwestern part of the Iberian Peninsula.
There, the pigs are free in the wild, eating roots, herbs, fungi, and acorns during the “montanera,” the autumn season of acorn-foraging.
JOSELITO is also the sweetest ham. This is obtained by limiting the amount of salt (during the salt curing of the meat). In JOSELITO, as with champagne, we seek balance, in this case, with salt, while in champagne the optimum balance is reached by adding sugar.
As a result, JOSELITO is totally different from other hams and is one of the few products to have the fifth flavor: the umami.
It is a product that makes people falls in love. I do not know anyone who has not been impressed the first time he or she has eaten a JOSELITO Iberico Bellota ham, and I cannot remember anyone who did not like it.
BC: What is the origin of this obsession with quality?
JG: Quality is the keyword in our family, we carry it in our DNA, with a history of 150 years in the production of hams that began with my great-great-grandfather.
We have always liked doing things very well, and have worked towards the excellence in our products. Both my grandfather and my father passed on to me this passion for maximum quality, which I also try to transmit to my children.
For us, it is clear that to make a perfect product you cannot under any circumstances lower the quality to increase the volume.
This is why our production is very limited and varies a lot each year depending on the climate, more or less suitable to produce JOSELITO.
We then undergo another selection, checking the hams piece by piece, to decide which ones meet the highest standards to be JOSELITO and which will be discarded. The goal is always to obtain the maximum quality.
BC: In your communication, you emphasize the healthy aspect of your products. Why?
JG: Iberian ham is very good for your health. Many studies highlight that the high content of oleic acid in the acorn (that the pigs eat) helps to reduce cholesterol.
The acorn also contains natural antioxidants such as quercetin, a flavonoid that avoids the effects of free radicals, while promoting greater longevity of cells.
In addition to all this, our meats are totally natural. We have made several analyses, and we can declare that our meat does not contain any heavy metal, because in our pastures there is absolutely no pollution.
Likewise, the production of our hams is completely natural and does not include any preservatives or color additive. We only use salt, and we take great care of the hams, which is simply a matter of opening and closing windows according to the weather (to allow the air to circulate around the hams during the curing).
For the salami, it is more complicated, and this is why we also include paprika, pepper, and garlic, but always without any nitrite or nitrate, ascorbic acid, or glutamate.
BC: You are passionate about champagne, to the point of creating synergies between JOSELITO and DOM PERIGNON in an exclusive collection. What is the origin of this fondness for champagne and this brand in particular?
JG: I have always been passionate about champagne. I fell in love with this drink when I was young because it refreshes me, it’s very easy to drink, and it feels good at any time.
You can have champagne at the aperitif, pair it with a first course, with a second course, with a dessert, you can drink it from the time you get up in the morning until the end of the night.
30 years ago in Spain, traditionally all the pairings with ham were made with Jerez wines, or with red wines from Rioja or Ribera de Duero, but not with champagne: that has been a personal endeavor.
Champagne is also a lifestyle, a life of quality and luxury, but an affordable luxury.
And I am also fascinated by the work of brand development worldwide that champagne has made. It has been an admirable job, which in my opinion is worth being studied.
Champagne has created a cult of luxury around it. Its aura is intimately linked to special moments of celebration, creating a magical atmosphere.
And I believe that DOM PERIGNON has reached impressive standards of quality and brand recognition.
I like many Champagne Houses, such as BOLLINGER, SALON, CRISTAL (ROEDERER) and POL ROGER. But DOM PERIGNON particularly seduces me, because it represents the absolute balance, and also because it has become the champagne brand of reference worldwide.
BC: JOSELITO, just like DOM PERIGNON, is always the product of a specific vintage. Why this approach?
JG: Each vintage is different because the acorn and pasture of each year are different. For example, there are years with mostly acorns of cork oak, and years when holm oak acorns predominate.
This depends on the climatology of each year. Consequently, each ham is different from the previous year and the next one.
DOM PERIGNON is always the product of different vintages, and it is always delicious, just like JOSELITO hams.
As far as I know, we are the only manufacturer who sells vintage hams, and we are very keen to share the information of each vintage.
BC: JOSELITO, like DOM PERIGNON, has become a benchmark in its segment. How has this brand recognition been achieved?
JG: Creating and developing a brand is very difficult, and keeping it up even more. You have to have a lot of passion, a very clear vision, and work hard.
To create a luxury brand that is positioned at the top, you need a great product of the highest quality, find the right niche, and communicate properly.
When we started developing our brand, the Spanish brand was not strong as it is today. At that time the elite gastronomic products were from France and Italy.
I wanted our hams to be included in what I consider the best store in the world for our products: Peck in Milan, an international temple of gastronomy.
At that time the most famous ham in the world was Parma. It took me a long time to present our products there. Finally, JOSELITO was the first Spanish product included in Peck’s catalog.
Over the years the Iberico Bellota ham has become the most famous ham in the world, and JOSELITO its brand of reference.
Like us, other producers of Spanish excellence have done the same to position Spain among the world’s gastronomy.
Today the world wine critic Robert Parker considers JOSELITO to be the greatest culinary treasure of Spain, and one of the finest natural products in the world.
El Bulli, which for many years has been the best restaurant in the world, had JOSELITO among its references, and its chef, Ferrán Adrià, like other international chefs, considers it a constant source of inspiration.
In this work of developing our brand, champagne has always been an important source of inspiration.
Champagne is a magnificent product with a great history, which has become a reference worldwide, particularly DOM PERIGNON.
You can see champagne in restaurants, bars, nightclubs or stores. It is a luxury available to everyone, an invitation to celebrate a special moment.
BC: What is the idea you want to convey with your brand and your hams?
JG: My wish is that when consumers eat JOSELITO, they know that they are eating healthy, which is the most important thing.
I also want JOSELITO’s consumers to fall in love with our brand and our product. The greatest pride for me is that when a person eats JOSELITO, he or she enjoys!