"Wine makes a symphony of a good meal!"
― Fernande Garvin
Pairing wine and pasta is more of an art than science. It's all about balancing the flavors of the dish with the flavors in the wine. Pasta, as we all know, has no flavor of its own. What gives it its flavor is the sauce. Various kinds of sauces are added to pasta, such as red, tomato-based sauce, creamy-white sauce, pesto sauce, etc.
These sauces impart specific flavors to the pasta dishes we love so much. However, pairing these pasta dishes with wine requires a bit of technique. The flavor of the wine chosen must complement the flavor of the ingredients used in these sauces. If the wine overpowers or masks the flavor of the dish, it's not the right wine for the meal. Thus, it's important to ensure the wine chosen brings out wonderful taste sensation to one's taste buds, when paired with a pasta dish.
7 Wines to Pair with Pasta
Tomato-based pastas have high acidity, and need wines with equal or higher acidity levels to match them. If the wine lacks a complementary level of acidity, the acidity in the pasta will overshadow the wine and make it taste bland. Pasta prepared with creamy sauces needs dry, unoaked white wines to cut through the rich flavor, yet not overpower it in any way. Let's find out how to pair pasta and wine.
Cabernet Sauvignon is the most sought-after wine in the world, and it is loved for its highly acidic, savory character. Its primary flavor is that of black currant, with overtones of several other flavors, like mint, cherry, vanilla, tobacco, and even other overtones, like coffee, spice, cedar, cassis, etc. This complex and layered wine is prized for its high tannin content, which makes it perfect for pasta prepared with thick tomato-based sauces. The high acidic content complements the acidity from the tomatoes, giving the entire meal the harmony it requires.
This light red wine variety goes well with tomato-based pastas because of its lighter structure. Its fragrant, earthy character complements light tomato-based sauces like marinara. However, the fruitier versions of this wine complement cream-based pasta sauces, so it's a versatile wine. Moreover, it also goes well with basil; thus, it can also be had with basil pesto sauce-based pasta. It also goes well with mushroom pastas. Strawberry and black cherry are common Pinot Noir flavors consumed, with the more earthy flavors being comparatively more expensive. Since Pinot Noir is also known as the sensual wine, it's perfect for a romantic dinner!
This wine is known for its rich, dark color and high tannin and alcohol content. It's available in light, medium, and full-bodied varieties, varying on the basis of the spice and tannin content. The tannin content makes it a suitable candidate to be served with tomato-based pastas. Moreover, its spicy, peppery flavor, with a hint of berries and cherries complements the tomato sauce well. However, the lighter versions, like the white Zinfandel variety, can also be had with the cream-based pastas. This wine also goes well with spaghetti and meatballs, sausage-based sauces, and bolognese.
America's number 1 white wine variety, Chardonnay is the most consumed variety in the world. This world-famous wine pairs well with pasta dishes prepared with creamy sauces. In fact, this wine complements cream-based pastas better than any other pasta variety. Classic Italian pasta dishes, like spaghetti carbonara also go well with lightly oaked or oaked Chardonnay. This wine also goes well with mushroom-based pastas and vegetable lasagnas. If you're preparing vegetarian pasta, young Chardonnay is the wine for you! There's no need to look any further, as Chardonnay and vegetable pastas are just made for each other. Light Chardonnay also goes well with cheese-based sauces and green pesto sauces.
More fruitier and softer than Cabernet Sauvignon, this smooth wine goes well with tomato-based pastas. It has lesser tannin content and is a mild red wine variety. However, this doesn't mean it lacks complexity. Its mellow flavor is backed by its fruity plum and black cherry flavor. A full-bodied Merlot goes well with meaty lasagnas and bolognese. If you're adding pancetta/bacon or mushroom, a light-bodied Merlot is sure to complement the pasta dish well. It's best to avoid pairing Merlot with cream-based pasta sauces.
This zesty white wine is loved for its versatile and food-friendly nature. It may have a melony or a tart flavor to it, depending on where it's grown. This highly aromatic wine comes with a hint of apple, peach, and pear flavor; however, you also get the hint of lovely honeysuckle and floral tones. It complements cream-based sauces and also goes well with stuffed and mushroom-based pastas. Moreover, its sweet and spicy flavor makes it suitable for spicy pasta dishes as well.
Sangiovese is a red wine that is neither strong as Cabernet Sauvignon nor mild as Merlot. This naturally fruity and highly tannic wine is quite food-friendly, and complements tomato-based sauces well. This wine has a cherry and violet flavor, and it is well-known for its vibrant acidity. No wonder it pairs so well with pastas prepared in a tomato sauce, like lasagnas, spaghetti and meatballs, etc. Then again, it's also known to pair well with basil pesto. Its fruit components―bright cranberry and cherry-fruit flavors―have been seen to complement the basil and garlic flavors in the pesto very well.
While wine pairing involves some basic rules that must be kept in mind, it's also about individual taste preferences. Besides the seven wines mentioned above, there are plenty of other wines that people prefer to drink with tomato- and cream-based pasta. So, these seven wines may not be your choice of wine, but as long as you're sure that your choice is complementing the meal well, go ahead and serve it!