How I choose the wine pairings
In general, we are looking for food-friendly wines. To me, this means more old-world wines as they have some of the best food wines you can find. When I say food wines I’m talking about a wine that is balanced between flavors, acidity, and alcohol content. It will be a more complex flavor profile than a big fruit bomb and will not try to mask its imperfections with malolactic acid and over oaking its whites. That does not mean these are bad wines, these are just not food-friendly wines in my eyes. A gathering of friends and you want a wine to sip and enjoy without having to think much about its complexities then these are an excellent choice. When you hit the dinner table though, I would like you to look for wines with more complexity and balance.
When I was coming up with these pairings for pasta dishes I decided to give you wine styles rather than specific wines. The reason for this is that wines change from vintage to vintage plus, not all wines are available in every market. So I wanted to give you a guide to help you make your decisions. When looking for a new wine I strongly suggest you visit your local wine shop to speak with someone that knows their inventory and can help guide you after learning more about you. A great wine pairing is going to be different from me to you. That does not mean that one of us is wrong, it just means we have our own personal tastes. So the best choice for you is the one that you like, no matter what other people tell you. Food and wine pairings are about enjoying life, not arguing about personal styles.
Top 10 Wines Pairings for Pasta
Cabernet Sauvignon and Red Sauce Pasta
When it comes to pairing a wine with a tomato-based sauce, a Cabernet is your all-around best wine choice. Cabs have long been established as the go-to wine for an Italian feast. The high acidity and all the tannins in Cabernet wines meld perfectly into a marinara sauce.
Chianti with Spaghetti & Meatballs
The pairing of a Chianti Classico with a big bowl of Spaghetti and Meatballs is iconic. What could be a more classic pairing? Chianti is my runner-up on my list of full-bodied wines like the Cabernet when pairing wine with tomato-based sauces.
Sangiovese with lasagna
What is a better wine pairing with meaty lasagnas than a Sangiovese? This Italian wine has an acidity that works great with rich lasagnas loaded with meats and cheeses.
Zinfandel with Spicy Spaghetti
This tannin rich wine is the best red wine pairing for spicy dishes like Pasta all’Arrabiatta. Zinfandels are heavy on black currant flavors and plenty of baking spice undertones that pair wonderfully with the spicy nature of any of your spicy pastas that are read meat based. If you have seafood spicy pasta take a look at my recommendation below.
Chardonnay with Shrimp Scampi
When I say Chardonnay, I am not talking about the big rich buttery oak bombs from California. You want a light chardonnay that is crisp, acidic, and citrusy. Chablis or even a White Burgundy if you have the budget for it are great pairings for a Shrimp Scampi.
Vermentino with Pasta Primavera
This underrated wine pairs well with vegetarian pasta. I would not go with a tomato based pasta but rather a green pesto or oil base sauce. Vermentino is a light bodied wine loaded with citrus fruits which makes for a crisp with vibrant acidity. This wine likes its green vegetables which is a pesto sauce is a good pick. If you like Pinot Grigio then you will like this wine style.
Suavignon Blanc with Spaghetti Carbonara
A sauvignon blanc is almost interchangeable with the Vermentino. If you have a guest that isn’t willing to explore new styles then this would be your style of wine. The acidity and brightness of sauvignon blancs work well with the rich dish of a carbonara. Not every day does someone tells you to pair a dry white wine with pasta loaded with bacon, cheese, and egg but it works.
Sparkling Rose with Shrimp and Scallop Giacomo
On my last trip to Boston, my wife and I sat at the counter of a tiny place called Giacomo’s. The shrimp and scallops with their Giacomo sauce were amazing. It is a red sauce finished with a touch of cream. I know there is more to it than that but when I thought of pairing a glass of sparkling wine with a pasta dish this is the first thing I thought of. The richness of the pasta sauce is balanced by the acidity of the sparkling wine but not so overpowering that the seafood loses out. Everything is a star with this pairing.
Riesling with Grilled Chicken over Garlic Cream Sauce
Rieslings are very food friendly even though they have the perception of being a sweet wine. Most rieslings are not sweet, I prefer the dry whites over their sweeter counterparts as they will be a more versatile wine for pairing. Dry rieslings with their high acids cut through the richness of cream-based sauces. Creamy sauces and cheese-based sauces need dry white wines and riesling is the perfect wine. Wines that help cut through rich foods you to take bite after bite without them becoming boring. Take a look at my Quick Cajun Alfredo if you need a last minute recipe.
Nebbiolo with Penne alla Vodka with Sausage
This full-bodied red wine from Piedmont is deceiving. The wine pours like a Pinot Noir with delicate florals on the nose yet is loaded with big tannins and a food-friendly acidity level. The high tannin levels from this wine pair well with the bright creamy tomato sauce while the anise finish from the Nebbiolo blends with the Italian sausage. Top this dish with plenty of fresh basil!