Red or White? Tips for Pairing Wine with Italian Food.


Red or White? Tips for Pairing Wine with Italian Food.

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“Would you like to see the wine list?”. It’s a common enough question when you enter an Italian restaurant. But for many people, that simple phrase incites fear and intimidation. That wine list might as well be written in Latin! Sure, you know that Italian food is even better with wine. You probably know the difference between red and white, and maybe you know a few key types of wine such as Cabernet or Chardonnay. But do you know when (and why) different wines do or don’t work with particular dishes?

Pairing wine with food doesn’t need to be an intimidating or impossible prospect. WIth just a few basics under your belt, you can make an educated decision much of the time. Here, we’ll help you bone up on some basics of pairing Italian food with wine. Consider this your starting point. From here, you can make your initial picks, then consult your server to figure out the best pairing with the dish you’ve chosen.

10 tips for pairing wine with Italian food

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Whether you’re pairing with pasta, salad, a savory appetizer or a meaty main dish, these tips and tricks will help point you in the right direction with your wine choice. Use this as a basic field guide, but don’t be afraid to ask for help once you’re seated at the restaurant table. A good server or sommelier should always be able to advise on precise choices, particularly if the chef has a unique twist on a given dish that really shines when paired with a particular wine on the menu.

1. Bubbles are a perfect beginning. Most sparkling wines have a touch of sweetness. That makes them a perfect, refreshing contrast for salty foods. If you’re ordering a salumi plate or a salty appetizer like arancini, you can’t go wrong by choosing Prosecco or a sparkling wine. Plus, it’s a festive start to your meal.

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2. Earthy flavors? Try Pinot Noir. Pinot Noir is one of the darlings of the wine list for good reason. With a light body but an immense depth of flavor, this is a perfect wine to pair with food. In particular, pinot noir pairs well with earthy foods. It’s an ideal pick to pair with our wild mushroom risotto.

3. Chardonnay loves fish. One of the best words to describe Chardonnay is silky but with a little bite. The smooth acidity helps Chardonnay “cut” through creamy sauces, making it the perfect counterpart to fish, seafood, and creamy sauces. Seafood in a rich, creamy sauce like our lobster fra’ diavolo is a great choice for pairing with Chardonnay.

4. Cabernet = great with steak. If you’ve been eyeing the New York Steak on our menu, consider pairing it with a bold Cabernet Sauvignon. The assertive, tannin-y flavor of the wine can stand up to the rich meat without overpowering it, making for a memorable flavor sensation.

5. Soften your palate with Malbec. A softer, less tannin-y wine than a Cabernet, a Malbec doesn’t necessarily stand up to heavy, rich meats in the same way. However, that means that it won’t overpower leaner meats or pasta dishes. Malbec is a versatile wine that can be paired beautifully with poultry, and can even pair well with some types of pasta.

6. Pork is perfect with Merlot. Merlot is an easy-drinking and approachable red wine which is great solo but even better with food. Easygoing, it’s assertive in flavor but softer than a cabernet, with means it can be paired with a number of different Italian main dishes. Extremes in flavor such as bitter, spicy, or sour can overwhelm a Merlot’s nuanced flavor; dishes like pork, poultry, or tomato-based pasta dishes all work well.

7. Barbera is bursting with flavor. Relatively little-known in the US, Barbera is a bold Italian wine that has actually been around far longer than Cabernet Sauvignon. The bright acidity on show in a Barbera makes it a wonderful complement to rich, dark meats, flavorful cheeses, highly herbed dishes, and earthy-rich foods such as mushrooms. It helps balance out rich Italian dishes.

8. Salad days call for Pinot Grigio. Some days, all you want is a salad or something crunchy and fresh. For those days, consider Pinot Grigio your BFF. This light, refreshing wine is an ideal complement for our caesar salad or roasted beet salad.

9. Well-rounded Riesling pairs well with a variety of dishes. Often, people dismiss Riesling as a “sweet” wine that is more like dessert than dinner fare. However, an off-dry riesling such as the Kabinett we offer can work well with seafood, vegetables, garlicky dishes, and even pork or poultry dishes.

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10. Sparkling rosé all day. When in doubt, think pink! Sparkling Rosé, such as our Brut Rosé, have a depth of flavor and a buoyancy that gives them the ability to pair with pretty much anything. You’d be surprised by how many things you can pair these bright bubbles with. From appetizers to risotto to rich pasta to even meats, more often than not it’s a rewarding choice.

Conclusion: Pairing wine with Italian food doesn’t need to be reserved for wine experts, nor does it need to be snooty. By learning a few key basics about different types of wine, you can make educated decisions on when and how to pair them with foods. Have fun exploring our menu and wine list at Bottiglia Cucina Enoteca!

Do you have a favorite wine and food pairing?