From Italy with Love: The Art of Pairing Wine with Marinara Sauce

I’m a firm believer that the right wine can make any meal better. There are few things better than a rich, flavorful marinara sauce. The acidity of the tomatoes needs an equally acidic wine to match. But what wine should you pair with marinara sauce?

That depends on your taste. Here are just a few suggestions:

It’s all about the acidity

First things first: the acidity of the tomatoes needs an equally acidic wine to match. The reason for this is that the acidity in tomatoes is caused by citric acid, which acts as a preservative and gives the marinara sauce its signature zing. This means that if your wine isn’t acidic enough, it won’t be able to balance out the acidity of your sauce.

Fresh Tomatoes

Additionally, since you’re using fresh tomatoes instead of store-bought canned ones (which contain added sugar), citrusy wines like Sauvignon Blancs and Rieslings are great options because they’ll help cut through their sweetness without adding any additional sugar themselves.

Matching Savory Dishes

If you’re cooking with more savory dishes like Chicken Parmesan or Pasta Carbonara, then you may want something lighter like Pinot Grigio or Gewürztraminer.

Either way, ensure whatever wine choices you make are dry enough so as not to affect how flavorful or sharp-flavored foods will turn out when paired together.

Cooking Considerations

The long-simmering time used to cook marinara sauce gives a deep, rich flavor that can rival Cabernet Sauvignon. You might be surprised at how much of an impact cooking time has on the final taste of your dish and not just because you can’t bear to watch a pot boil for hours on end. The longer food is cooked, the more its flavors can meld and develop into something more complex than they would otherwise be.

Cooking also affects the texture of proteins and vegetables, making them softer or crunchier depending on what you’re cooking. This change in texture depends mostly on heat levels; higher temperatures tend to make foods tough or chewy (like overcooked steak), while lower temperatures will leave them tender but still firm enough to bite into easily (like undercooked pasta).

Let’s take a look at some of the best wines with marinara sauce and why they work so well.

Sangiovese

Sangiovese is a bold red wine with lots of acidity, high tannins, and plenty of cherry flavors. It will go very well with marinara sauce. The wine has strong aromas that include violets, cherries, and plums. The alcohol content is 13% – 14%. Sangiovese pairs well with tomato-based pasta dishes such as Spaghetti Bolognese or Carbonara because they have similar flavors and textures.

Here are some excellent examples of Sangiovese that will work with your marinara:

Chiara Condello ‘Le Lucciole’ Romagna Sangiovese Predappio Riserva

Critic tasting note: (2018 vintage) “Full-bodied and elegant, this opens with enticing, delicate scents of fragrant blue flowers, ripe plum, botanical herbs and dark spice. Smooth, structured and elegant, the savory palate delivers ripe black cherry, star anise and crushed mint framed in tightly knit, refined tannins. Fresh acidity keeps it balanced. Though it’s already enjoyable, it will offer several more years of pleasure. Drink through 2030. Kerin O’Keefe” – 93/100Wine Enthusiast

Leonetti Cellar Sangiovese (USA)

Critic tasting note: (2018 vintage) “This wine is a shift from recent vintages, initially showing aromas of nori and tar, opening to reveal dried cherry and leather. The flavors bring a lot of elegance, without as much overt acidity and tannin structure as this offering usually displays. Sean P. Sullivan” – 88/100Wine Enthusiast

Altamura Sangiovese (Napa Valley)

Critic tasting note: (2004 vintage) “Altamura has tackled this extremely difficult wine for years. They’ve settled on a style that’s soft and silky, with complex flavors of cherries, dates, plum skins, cocoa and pepper, and the weight of a Pinot Noir.” – 89/100Wine Enthusiast

Sauvignon Blanc

If you prefer to drink white wine instead of red, look for a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. This fresh, bright wine will bring out the best in the sauce. The acidity of the tomatoes needs an equally acidic wine to match and Sauvignon blanc will do just that.

I recommend you try one of these great Sauvignon Blancs with your marinara:

Bread & Butter North Coast Sauvignon Blanc

This Sauvignon Blanc has bright aromas of lemon zest and hints of tropical fruit, lively flavors with citrus notes followed by a rich texture and a clean finish.

2021 Decoy California Sauvignon Blanc

Aromas of pineapple, lemon, and green apple lead the way for this crisp Sauvignon Blanc. Underneath those fresh scents is a layer of lime zest that adds another exciting dimension to what you taste, which lingers in your mouth long after each sip.

Lieu Dit Sauvignon Blanc 2017

This Sauvignon Blanc has aromas of ripe kiwi, lemon, and lime accented by hints of green apples. The palate is full and creamy with a rich mouthfeel that is balanced by crisp acidity.

Pinot Noir

You can also choose a young Pinot Noir and serve it at room temperature. Pinot Noirs are light enough to let the flavor of the tomatoes shine through, but they still have enough structure to handle a thick tomato sauce.

Look for wines that are not too tannic and have moderate acidity levels. Tannins can be overpowering with marinara sauce, so stick with wines that have moderate levels of tannins (not too high or low).

There are lots of Pinot Noir out there to choose from. Here are three of the best:

2016 Domaine Lecheneaut Les Pruliers

This is towards the more expensive end of the price range but no doubt this is an exceptional wine. Les Pruliers has a strong color. The wine offers aromas of fresh red fruit, wild prunes, and licorice. As it ages, it adds depth and roundness. It has aromas of cocoa, and smoked meat.

2019 Fanny Sabre Bourgogne Rouge

More affordable is the Fanny Sabre Bourgogne Rouge. This is an organic pinot noir that’s delicate, easy to drink, and naturally delicious. It has a fresh, crunchy, summer pudding fruit flavor with crisp acidity and just lip-smacking moreishness. And because it’s low in sulfur, it’s great for summer or winter drinking.

2018 Corazza Pinot Nero

At the lower end of the price range is the Pinot Nero. This is a unique wine from Friuli, a region in northeastern Italy. It’s made from the pinot noir grape and is unlike other pinot noirs you might be used to. It’s light, bright, and easy to drink.

Chianti

Spicy, peppery notes in Chianti pair well with tomato dishes that have a little kick to them. You may want to chill this slightly for a more refreshing experience.

Chianti is an Italian wine made from Sangiovese grapes. It’s best served chilled or at room temperature and pairs well with tomato-based pasta sauces like marinara sauce because of their spicy and peppery notes.

Look out for one of these great examples of Chianti for your marinara pairing:

Vigna Graspoli 2018 – Lamole di Lamole

The wine’s color is deep ruby, and the nose gives off hints of violet, iris flowers and berries. Aromatic herbs and sweet spices are also present. The taste is elegant with very fine tannins that give it a powerful but smooth finish.

Il Poggio 2017 – Monsanto Castle

Il Poggio Chianti Classico has a deep red color and an aroma that combines violet, black cherry, and spices. It tastes warm and rich with a long finish. It pairs well with a variety of grilled meats, stews, and aged cheeses.

Grand Selection 2019 – Brancaia

The color is deep ruby red. On the nose, it is extremely elegant with scents of wild fruits and cherry chocolate, licorice, and Caribbean cedar. The taste is rich and furrowed by precise and well-dissolved tannins. The finish is long.

Conclusion

The acidity of the tomatoes in marinara sauce is an important factor to consider when choosing a wine to pair with it. The pairing should be equally acidic, or else the wine will taste flat and dull.

You should also consider how the marinara is being cooked and for how long. Depending on how it is cooked the rich flavors that develop can rival Cabernet Sauvignon and other full-bodied red wines.

My personal choice is Sangiovese. It has the necessary acidity to match the tomatoes but also has a fruity flavor that works so well with any marinara sauce.

Looking for a great recipe for Marinara sauce? Take a look at Grace Parisi’s Best-Ever Marinara Sauce on Foodandwine.com, you will struggle to find a better one.

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