Best Wines for Italian food

Ah, Italian food. A cuisine that is versatile and brings a variety of flavors that are asking to be paired with fantastic wines. From lasagna to simple pasta, Italian food and wines have an envious list of successful pairing combinations.

In this article, we recommend which wines are best to have with your favorite Italian meals. Let’s start with a firm family favorite and a glass of red.

Best wine with Lasagna:

Lasagna needs to be paired with a wine that complements the meaty flavors. Below we highlight three wines that hit the spot.

Sangiovese

Sangiovese is a red wine that pairs brilliantly with Lasagna. It is a medium-bodied wine with a bright ruby color, full of cherry and berry flavors. It also has notes of spice and vanilla which add complexity to this dish. This is the perfect wine for lasagna because it isn’t too heavy or spicy, but it does have enough flavor to stand up to the cheese and meat in this Italian classic.

Fruits such as red currant, roasted tomato, and raspberries are all present in a glass of Sangiovese. This does depend on where it is produced. In cooler climates, flavors such as red currants and roasted tomatoes will be more prevalent, rather than in warmer climates flavors such as raspberry and blackberries come through. This is because as the grape ripens, you will taste more berry-like, sweet flavors.

If you are a fan of Lasagna, have a look at this Lasagna recipe and experience the Sangiovese with it.

Chianti Classico

Chianti Classico is another red wine that pairs well with Lasagna.

The Chianti Classico is a medium-bodied wine, with nice acidity and consists of a lot of red fruits. It has a long persistence, so the flavors of the wine are consistent throughout the meal, meaning you can appreciate it even further. The Chianti Classico is a versatile wine that goes well with many Italian dishes, as we shall discover.

The fruitiness of the Chianti Classico allows a sensational contrast between pasta, meat, and berries. The flavors of the wine prevent the flavors of the lasagna from becoming too powerful, and in return, the lasagna acts to prevent the flavors of the wine from becoming too powerful as well.

Montepulciano D’Abruzzo

Another great red wine candidate for lasagna is the Montepulciano D’Abruzzo. This wine is sensational. The Montepulciano D’Abruzzo is a great wine for lasagna and will work well with most other types of red sauce. This wine is a bit heavier than some of the others, which means it will stand up to the heavy tomato sauces that are often used in lasagna recipes.

Montepulicano D’Abruzzo also has a spicy texture too. If you want a bit of kick to go with your lasagna, this is the perfect pairing for you.

The wine consists of ripe, fruity flavors, which offer a brilliant contrast to the meat in the lasagna. Flavors such as black cherry, plum, blueberry, and blackberry are all prevalent in a glass of Montepulciano, creating a brilliant combination with savory, meaty flavors.

Best wine with Pasta dishes (it’s all about the sauce)

If you are wondering what is the best wine with Italian food, you have to work out how to pair with pasta dishes. Pasta is an Italian staple but what is the best wine to pair with it?

Pairing wine with pasta is a tricky business, as you cannot simply remember one wine that goes well together and serve it with all of your pasta dishes. The best advice for pairing wine with pasta is to ignore the pasta and focus on the sauce. Let me repeat that. If you want to find the best wine for Italian food, focus on the sauce!

If a pasta dish made of tomato sauce is served with meat or heavy cream, then a wine that is full-bodied, such as a cabernet sauvignon, is the way to go. The idea behind pairing wines with pasta dishes should always be about enhancing or accentuating the flavors in the sauce.

Tomato sauce-based Pasta dishes

Delicious examples of wines that will go great with a pasta dish topped with tomato sauce are, Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, etc. For instance, the fresh tomato sauce on your pasta will also pair well with dry white wines, but it does not do as well with sweet white wines.

Wines that go best with spicy pasta dishes are either dry white wines or lighter red wines. A dry white like Riesling, or a light red like Zinfandel, will make it easier to enjoy the hot, spicy spaghetti.  Experienced wine fans and sommeliers also recommend Riesling for mushroom-based, meat-based and cream-based sauces.

Thanks to its spiced, sweet flavors, it is great for a spicy pasta too. If you are looking for a white wine to pair with, without taking a chance on something bold like Chardonnay, Riesling is where to look. 

Creamy sauce-based Pasta dishes

Lighter, creamier pasta sauces are better enjoyed with lighter, crisper-tasting white wines. Pastas served with creamier sauces, like Alfredo, are great paired with lighter-bodied white wines.

If your pasta dish is plain and cheese-based, any white (e.g., Chardonnay, Riesling) or light-bodied red wine (e.g., Pinot Noir, Lambrusco) will amplify the creamy nature of cheese. 

Check out our other posts on Carbonara and Risotto.

Seafood Pasta Dishes

When it comes to pasta with seafood, mussels, or shrimp, try Grassavina or Sauvignon Blanc. If you prefer something drier but fruity, try a Pinot Grigio 

Whether you are looking to cook spaghetti with mussel sauce, shrimp scampi, or shrimp tossed in tomato sauce, you will want to have the ideal wine to pair with it. The wines listed above usually overlap quite nicely (for example, Riesling may go as well in spicy tomato sauce as Sangiovese), so do not worry that the red (or white) will not go well with the pasta dish you choose. I personally love pairing Italian wines with pasta whenever I can, because they are just so well-suited and are not overly rich or heavy.

Best wines for Italian cheese

We have illustrated the best wine for Italian foods when it comes to meals, but what is the best wine for cheese?

Mascarpone, Ricotta and Mozzarella 

If you are a fan of these three kinds of cheese, you are in luck. There are a variety of white wines that pair well with these cheeses. White wines that are dry and light bodied are exceptionally good.

Known as Pinot Gris in France and Pinot Grigio in Italy, this light-bodied white wine is perfect with these three cheeses. 

The variety of fruits that are prevalent in this wine offers a fantastic combination with the cheese. Flavors such as lemon, yellow apple, melon, nectarines, and peach are all fruits that you may expect in a glass of Pinot Grigio.

It is key to understand what you wish to experience when pairing your wine with cheese. If you are a fan of tropical flavors with cheese, aim for a wine that is produced in areas such as southern Italy, or even the USA (California). If you are a fan of more citrusy flavors, aim for a wine that is produced in areas like Northern Italy.

Hard Aged cheeses- Grana Padano, Parmigiano

Lets take a look at the best wine for hard-aged cheeses.

Viognier is a classic example of a full-bodied white wine that will go perfectly with hard-aged cheeses. Cheeses such as Parmigiano and Grana Padano need a fruity wine, with relatively low acidity to be able to enjoy the flavors of the wine and the cheese.

Viognier is an extremely fruity wine, offering flavors such as tangerine, peach, mango, orange, apricot, and pineapple. The combination of these flavors will act as a buffer to prevent the flavors of the cheeses from dominating the flavors of the wine. Also, the fruity flavors will cleanse your palate so that when you go for another bite, it will taste like the first time you tried the cheeses. That way you will be able to enjoy every bite.

Chianti Classico is also a good wine to pair with hard-aged cheeses. This is because it has a complex flavor profile that will stand up to the strong flavors of many hard cheeses, such as Parmesan and Romano. It can also be enjoyed as an aperitif. It’s light-bodied and has a smooth texture, which makes it easy to drink. The wine is made using traditional Sangiovese grapes that have been grown in the Chianti region of Italy since the 12th century.

Conclusion

There is no shortage of excellent wines to pair with the many outstanding Italian dishes you can cook at home to create a winning combo. In this post I have focused on the more popular dishes and what better is there than lasagna? Serve with a glass of Sangiovese or Chianti Classico and you will at least look like you know what you are doing.

For other dishes, it’s all about the sauce. The best advice for pairing wine with pasta is to ignore the pasta and focus on the sauce. Tomato-based dishes need a Zinfandel or Cabernet Sauvignon. Spicier sauces work better with a Riesling, creamy sauces look for Chardonnay or Pinor Noir.

Finally, Italian cheese and wine. Try a Pinot Grigio with softer cheeses such as Mozzarella or Ricotta. Go for Chianti Classico with the hard cheeses. What a great way to start or end a meal.

You can also check out our post discussing the best wine for Pizza here. Another favorite is the best wine for mac and cheese.