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Italian Cuisine

Food, Spices & Wine

Like French food and wine, Italian food and wine go hand in hand. If you follow the standard wine pairing rules with Italian food, you won't run into many problems.

italian-2For most people, Italian fare spells pasta, yet Italy's distinct regional cuisines - Pimonte, Sardegna, Sicilia, Toscana (right), Abruzzo, Veneto, etc - offer plenty of variety.

Fresh pastas, rich sauces, seafood, meat, risotto, polenta, crusty breads, olive oil, cheese and of course pizza characterize Italian food and pair well with wines from regions that inspired them.

Sauce Rules

A quick and easy rule for pairing Italian cuisine with Italian wine is to match the sauce to the wine. A lighter sauce goes well with a lighter wine, while a richer sauce pairs best with a more complex wine. 

italian-3A seafood pasta with a heavier, garlic cream sauce (left) should pair well with a northern climate Chardonnay. 

Be mindful of exceptions to the rules however, especially when it comes to wine. Sometimes a heavier, fattier dish requires a drier wine with more acid to lighten the load and cut through the fat, so to speak.

Northern Italian comfort foods built around beef, lamb and rabbit pair well with a full bodied Italian red. Northern game, cheese and prosciutto pair well with lighter, fruitier whites.

Olive oil, bread and wine are quintessentially Italian. Try a Sangiovese wine with crusty bread or an Aglianico with an olive oil based pasta dish. Sangiovese based wines also pair well with most hearty Italian dishes and mushroom sauces.

italian-1Chianti Loves Tomato

Chianti, blended primarily from Sangiovese grapes (left),  is the default wine for tomato based sauces and will also compliment strong cheese sauces. Chianti has just the right acid level for tomatoes. 

Seafood pasta dishes and mild cheese stuffed pasta pair well with Chardonnay or even Champagne.

Voigner pairs well with creamier sauces such as alfredo, and buttery sauces stand up to Chardonnay. Meat lasagnas pairs well with Valpollicello and Chianti. Vegetable lasagnas which are milder and contain mushrooms may pair better with a Pinot Noir.

Italian appetizers and soups typically pair best with lighter, drier wines. Full-bodied red wines go well with Italy's cured meats, such as prosciutto, salami and pancetta.

Pesto, another Italian classic, pairs with rich reds, while the classic pizza pairs well with reds like Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Chianti and Merlot.

When in doubt remember that Italian food and wine culture have developed hand in hand and regional food pair best with wines from the same region.