Top 7 Wines That Make a Perfect Match With Pasta Dishes
Pasta and wine are very complementary and regularly served along with each other. However, choosing the wrong kind of wine can diminish the entire experience. If you don’t want that to happen to you and your guests, you need to keep on reading.
Here we will reveal the top seven wines that are commonly used with various pasta dishes, and give you some top tips to make sure that your pasta (and accompanying wine) are a hit.
Understanding the best wine to pair with your pasta
Pairing wine with pasta is truly an art, and something the Italians most certainly take seriously. Unfortunately though, unlike other common meals such as roast meats or fish, pasta is typically the carrier for a huge variety of different flavors, rather than the predominant flavor itself.
As such, knowing the best wine with pasta takes finesse – you can’t just stick to one grape varietal and pair this with all your different forms of pasta. A pasta which has a flavorful tomato-based sauce would pair better with a complimentary dry red, while those with a creamy sauce are better suited to an oaked white. If you’re making a lamb ragu then you’re going to need to search for a fruity red, but for a salmon penne you’ll want to look for a crisp white – or even a sparkling wine!
These differences can make pairing wine with pasta a difficult affair, because you can’t just memorize a go-to wine and serve it with all your pasta dishes.
Fortunately though, we’ve put together an awesome and simple guide to help you find the best wine for pasta, so all you have to do is read ahead, and you’ll learn whether you need to grab a Zinfandel or a Riesling without having to waste the time exploring the different tasting notes yourself.
Top seven wines to pair with pasta dishes
Cabernet Sauvignon is a highly popular wine that is loved because of its highly acidic properties, savory character, and complex flavors.
Some of the primary flavors that accompany Cabernet Sauvignon include black currant, as well as several other overtones such as vanilla, mint, cherry, and in some cases even cassis, cedar, spice, and coffee.
Then there is the fact that it is rich in tannin, which makes it perfect for pasta featuring tomato sauce. Last but not least, it is the high acidic content that complements the acidity of the tomato sauce and makes the wine and the pasta co-exist in harmony.
While we can’t say for sure that the wonderful pairing with pasta is why Cabernet Sauvignon has such a rich history in Italian wine (first introduced into the Piedmont region in the early 1800s), it definitely must have helped the popularity of the grape!
Zinfandel is rich in both alcohol and tannins, making it a solid pairing for many different pasta dishes.
This dark-colored wine is available in several full-bodied styles, but it is the tannin content that makes it an ideal candidate for tomato-based pasta. The fact that Zinfandel has a peppery and spicy flavor, often with notes of cherries and berries, make it even more complementary with the tomato sauce.
On the other hand, if you have a lighter version, then know that it goes nicely with cream-based pasta, bolognese, sausage-based sauces, meatballs, and spaghetti. Arguably one of the most versatile wines we feature on our list, and probably your best bet if you’re unsure of what to go for.
Thanks to its earthy and fragrant character, Pinot Noir can be served with any tomato-based sauce. If you have a fruitier version of this wine, you might want to open it when on the menu, you have cream-based pasta.
That makes Pinot Noir pretty versatile wine, second only to the Zinfandel.
Furthermore, this wine goes well with pesto-based sauces and mushroom pasta. As a final note, Pinot Noir wine is considered as sensual wine (even renowned as an aphrodisiac in some cultures) meaning that it is ideal for a romantic diner that includes a pasta dish – so why not make it your choice for a wonderful date night?
Chardonnay is one of the most popular varieties in the world that, at the same time, goes nicely with pasta that includes creamy sauces – not many other wines can complement a cream-based pasta in the same manner as Chardonnay can.
Oaked Chardonnay is known to go well with mushroom-based pasta and spaghetti carbonara. If you are preparing a vegetarian pasta, then you should opt for young Chardonnay, and not an oaked one.
Green pesto and cheese-based sauces are known to go well with light Chardonnay, and we’d generally recommend it as the go-to with any non-tomato based vegetarian pasta dish.
People love Riesling because of its food-friendly nature and versatility.
It is a very aromatic wine that often features notes of pear, peach, and apple. Sometimes it comes with floral notes and hints of honeysuckle.
Experienced wine aficionados and sommeliers recommend it with mushroom-based, stuffed, and cream-based sauces but, thanks to its spicy and sweet flavor, it also goes nicely with a spicy pasta and if you’re looking for a white wine to pair without the risk of something as bold as an oaked Chardonnay, then Riesling is the right place to look.
Merlot is a smooth and fruity wine that can be served with any tomato-based pasta. It doesn’t contain too much tannin, which makes it a mild wine variety.
However, it does not mean it is a simple wine that lacks complexity. If it is a full-bodied Merlot, then it should be matched with bolognese and meaty lasagnas.
If you plan to add bacon or pancetta to the pasta, you should opt for a light-bodied version.
Merlot doesn’t go too well with a cream-based pasta sauce, so while you can just about get away with it with a carbonara, we’d suggest steering clear if you’re going to be making any other cream-based sauces for your pasta.
Sangiovese is a highly tannic and very fruity wine is not as mild as Merlot, nor as strong as Cabernet Sauvignon.
That makes it one of the most food-friendly wines in the world, especially if a tomato-based pasta is on the menu.
Thanks to its violet and cherry flavor, as well as its vibrant acidity, make it even more complementary to any tomato-based pasta. The fruity components also make it suitable for pesto-based pasta that contains garlic and herbs, and it pairs wonderfully with simple pasta dishes featuring ingredients like olive oil, sun-dried tomatoes, and basil.
Congruent and contrasting wine pairings
When it comes to pairing wine with pasta, or pairing wine with any food, you’ve got two options for the pairing – congruent, or contrasting.
A congruent wine pairing is one which features similar flavor components – think of a fruit-forward and acidic Sangiovese with a tomato sauce.
A contrasting wine pairing is one which features different flavor notes – such as a dry sparkling Prosecco with cheesy and creamy pasta.
There’s no right or wrong answer as to whether you should opt for congruent or contrasting, it’s largely down to personal preference. If you’re pairing a full wine flight with a multi-course Italian meal however, then it’s certainly a fun thing to experiment with changing between congruent and contrasting wine pairings throughout the different dishes.
Just like different dishes, each wine pairing invokes different feelings, and can be used as an incredible tool to add an extra dimension to your cooking.
Bonus points – pairing a red and a white with your pasta
Like people, wines are individualistic. They have huge differences between them, and even similar wines work best with wildly varied dishes.
So why try to push a red with your tomato-based pasta if your guest prefers a white? Or a white with your cream-based sauce if your guest prefers a red?
Sure, it may be the more traditional approach, but wine is there to be enjoyed, not to follow strict guidelines, and any skilled sommelier will always be able to find an alternative pairing if you’re the kind of person who only drinks red, or only drinks white!
The wines listed above often have a good overlap (eg, Riesling can complement a spiced tomato sauce just as well as a Sangiovese) so don’t be worried about a red (or white) not pairing with your chosen pasta dish. You can easily find both a red and a white and make sure that yourself, and your guests, always get to have the best wine with pasta – whatever their preferences!
By now, you probably have a pretty good idea of how to match the different types of pasta with various wines and find the best wine for your pasta.
However, much of the wine and pasta pairing needs to be based on your preferences. Can’t go wrong with any of these seven wines, but if you want to try something else, go ahead and serve it. You never know when you can discover a killer combination.
You can experiment with different flavor combinations to create either a congruent or a contrasting wine pairing – see what you enjoy the most, and see if your friends like it too!