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A Basic Guide for Wine Pairings in Italian Cuisine

wine italian cuisine

Enjoy your wine and your meal that much more when you make a smart pairing based on this guide.

Italian cuisine is one of the most respected in the wide world of food, and along with good food comes good wine. Wine experts around the globe have worked to perfect their crafts, and in doing so have noted which foods pair best with which wines. We know that not everyone who comes into our restaurant, nor everyone who simply enjoys a glass of wine with dinner, is a master sommelier, so we put together this quick guide for some easy and delicious pairings.

Red Wines

  • Cabernet Sauvignon: Named for the type of grape it comes from, Cabernet Sauvignon has a flavor primarily dominated by black currant, sometimes including some mint or blackberry undertones. These wines are hearty and rich, and pair best with tomato based sauces — obviously quite popular in italian cuisine.
  • Italian Chianti: Chianti is a strong and bold red wine, ideal for pairing with a bold, well-seasoned sauce. It’s best with tomato-based, but will also go nicely with oil- or cream-based sauces.
  • Merlot: Merlot will be softer than many other reds, featuring mellow fruity flavors like plum, black cherry, or orange. It’s also best paired with a red sauce.
  • Pinot Noir: This is a light red wine with earthy flavors and occasional vanilla accents. This is a very versatile wine within Italian cuisine that goes best with red sauces but won’t shy away from oils or creams.
  • Zinfandel: Zinfandels are deep, robust reds that are spicy and peppery, with hints of berries or dark cherries. This wine also, you guessed it, goes best with a thick and hearty tomato-based red sauce.

White Wines

  • Chardonnay: Depending on the vineyard it came from and its fermentation process, this wine can be either semi-sweet or sour, heady or light. Chardonnays typically feature flavors of apple, tangerine, lemon, lime, melon, or oak. Like most white wines in Italian cuisine, it will be best paired with an oil- or cream-based sauce, but can also be served with a lighter red sauce.
  • Pinot Grigio/Pinot Gris: These two names actually refer to the same grape, which has developed different names in different regions. In Italy and California, it’s called a Pinot Grigio, whereas in Oregon and France it’s a Pinot Gris. Regardless of the name, this wine is best paired with oil- and cream-based sauces in Italian cuisine.
  • Riesling: Often intended to be a sweet wine, it can also be fairly dry. The flavors of this wine vary depend on where its grapes are grown — Californian Rieslings lean toward the dry and melon-flavored side, while German Rieslings are more tart and grapefruit-flavored. These wines are to be paired with cream- or oil-based sauces.
  • Sauvignon Blanc: Typically very light and slightly smoky, Sauvignon Blancs feature apple and grassy flavors, making them quite crisp and acidic — a perfect match for cream and oil-based sauces.


You may have noticed a trend here — more often than not, a red wine will pair best with a red sauce, and a white wine will pair best with a oil- or cream-based sauce. Other cuisines may tell you to focus on the protein in the dish (typically whites with seafoods and chicken, reds with red meats), but since Italian cuisine has such a preference toward good sauces, the above recommendations won’t steer you wrong at Basta Pasta. Feel free to double check with your server for a wine recommendation for your particular dish. Really though, can you really go wrong with a glass (or two or three) of any good wine at dinner? Yeah, we didn’t think so either.

Enjoying Good Wine at Basta Pasta

In 2004, Basta Pasta opened its doors to the public, and ever since has maintained the image and experience of casual Italian dining. In addition to fresh, delicious ingredients and recipes, the restaurant strives to uphold expert, attentive, and cordial service for its customers. Enjoy a taste of Italy with hearty pasta dishes, endless salad and breadsticks, and fine wines right here in your hometown. For more information, visit our website.

Want to learn more about our wine selection? Interested in our menu? Need to get in touch with one of our locations? Here is some basic contact information for both:

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This entry was posted on Wednesday, January 13th, 2016 at 5:33 pm. Both comments and pings are currently closed.