5 Classic Italian Wines for Classic Italian Cuisine

5 Classic Italian Wines for Classic Italian Cuisine
Award-winning wine writer and drinks presenter Helena Nicklin gets the juices flowing with some classic wine and food pairings leaving you well prepped for a trip round the old country!

Italian Cuisine: the ultimate comfort blanket

How can the simplest ingredients make such incredibly mouthwatering dishes?

One thing’s for certain when it comes to wine and food matching: if they come from the same place, chances are, they will go well together.

Here is my tried and tested (and tested and tested again) guide to some classic Italian wines you need to try and their perfect food pairings.

Classic Antipasti

e.g. Cold meats and cheese with olives and carciofi
It’s meat, there’s flavour, but it’s all also pretty light. The perfect match is a particularly light red – slightly chilled if possible. A dry, red Lambrusco is an ideal choice here. It’s coming back into fashion with a vengeance right now and having tasted a few recently, we can see why!

italian cuisine: food and wine pairings Cold meats and cheese with olives and carciofi and lambrusco
Cold meats and cheese with olives and carciofi goes together great with a Dry Red Lambrusco

Dry, red Lambrusco is light on the alcohol and fruity without being too sweet. There’s also a refreshing co2 prickle on the palate and a moreish, yeasty note (in a good way). It’s the perfect touch for lunch with cold cuts or before you move on to heavier food and wine.

Pasta with seafood

e.g. Linguine alle vongole
Seafood pasta, perhaps cooked in some white wine with a touch of garlic and maybe even chilli. I am salivating already! You need a crisp white here, not a full-bodied, oaky number heavy on the alcohol.

italian cuisine food and wine pairings Linguine alle vongole and wines from campania
With sea food wines from Campania such as the Greco, Fiano and the beautifully named Falanghina are a welcome compliment!

With these dishes, I like to head to Campania and look for one of the three local white grapes that are becoming ever more popular (even though they’ve already been around for centuries!): Greco, Fiano and the beautifully named Falanghina. Greco for crisp, dry, golden wines. Falanghina for similar, with a little more depth of flavour and Fiano for when you need a touch more tropical fruit.

Cheesy pasta dishes

e.g. Gnocchi ai quattro formaggi
It’s time to bring out the big guns. Rich, cheesy, heavy… divine. The wines above will clear your palate nicely, but the flavours may not stand up to all that cheese.

Try a Sardinian Vermentino with its waxy, weightier, body packed full of baked apple and spice flavours or even a Friulano from the North East of the Country. This is a grape with fantastic, unique flavour that stays crisp and offers a smoky bite on the finish. Chardonnay works well too… but you can find that almost anywhere.

Pizza with tomato sauce

Tomatoes, famously, are known as wine killers. Their acidity tends to strip most wines of their fruit, leaving them tasting of battery acid. Not so for the classic Tuscan red grape Sangiovese. They say what grows together goes together and Chianti (must be minimum 85% Sangiovese) and pizza have been a marriage made in heaven since, well probably before heaven existed.

italian cooking food and wine pairings: pizza and chianti from sangiovese
Chianti and pizza have been a marriage made in heaven since, well probably before heaven existed!

The high acidity of the wine itself balances that of the tomato and the herbaceous, sour cherry notes of the wine stand up to the tart flavour of the tomatoes. Montepulciano d’Abruzzo doesn’t do too badly here either, if you want something richer, with more purple, plum fruit.

Red meat and heavy, meaty ragu dishes

E.g. Filetto Mascalzone or Pappardelle allo Stinco di Agnello
They love a bit of rich, meaty ragu in Tuscany. A heavy red is the obvious choice here but again, you’ll want some good acidity to cut through the richness of the sauce.

italian cooking at its best with wine from Montepuliciano or Sangiovese
Filetto Mascalzone with a heavy red such a Chianti again or Montepulciano is an obvious choice!

Enter Sangiovese again, but in its bigger brother format: Brunello di Montalcino. This is a beefier version of Sangiovese, aged in oak for longer to give a powerful, spicy, meaty red wine with a six pack. Grrrr. It’s not cheap, but it is epic.

If this has got your juices flowing for Italian food and wine, once you’ve finished up at Mascalzone, why not book a wine tasting or a food tour in Italy?

Cin Cin!

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Author: Helena Nicklin

Helena Nicklin is Head of Content for Winerist.com: a platform for booking wine tasting and food tours in world famous wine regions. She is also an award-winning wine writer and drinks presenter. Find Winerist on twitter or on Instagram for inspiration for your next wine holiday to Italy – and beyond!

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