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Pairing Wine With Bolognese

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If we’re talking about comfort food, our minds tend to go straight to the carbs. And what’s better than a rich and flavorful spaghetti bolognese? Look for something with bold tannins and high acidity to enhance the inherent acidity of the tomatoes. Red fruit and a herbaceous finish will highlight the rich bolognese. The Italians knew what they were doing with Bolognese, so trust their judgment with the wine too and opt for a good Italian red to hold its own with this rich meat sauce.

Bolognese sauce is quite heavy and flavorful. As a result, a red wine would be an ideal pairing since we are dealing with bolder flavors. Tomato based sauces tend to be higher in acidity which is something to consider as well when pairing wine with food. 

Wine Characteristics To Pair With Bolognese

Characteristic Detail
Sweetness Dry
Acidity High
Tannins Medium to High

Medium to Full Bodied White wines and Medium to Full Bodied Reds

Notes White Wine Notes – Citrus, crisp minerality, creaminess
Red Wine Notes – Red fruit, earthy, herbaceous

Sweetness – Referring to the chart above, a wine which is completely dry is what you want to go for when pairing with bolognese. Sweet does not mix with meat very well. 

Acidity – Acid levels of the wine are best to be high to compete with the levels of acidity in the sauce. Acidity levels in the food should be matched with the acidity levels in the wine, otherwise your wine will end up tasting flabby.

Tannins – Wines with medium to high tannin tend to be fuller bodied and more powerful overall which is exactly what we are looking for when dealing with a sauce that is also quite powerful and bold. Tannins will also work well with the meat present in the sauce as they help break down proteins in the sauce.

Body – The greater the mouthfeel of the wine on the palate, the higher the “body” of the wine. Most red wines which are fuller bodied will end up being quite fruity and higher in alcohol when coming from the new world (USA, Australia, Argentina) and quite earthy with dry fruit characters when coming from the old world (Europe).

Tasting Notes – Citrus, green and mineral aromas with hints of creaminess to balance out the tomatoes would be great in a white wine that pairs with bolognese sauce. Red fruit (think raspberries and sour cherries), and herbaceous, earthy notes in red wines would enhance the flavors of the sauce.

Best Red Wine To Drink With Bolognese

Red wines are generally stronger in flavor with more structure when compared to the whites. We will be preferring reds as mentioned earlier, simply due to the fact that they are generally the more flavorful, heavier style of the two. Inherently higher tannins found in red wines will only serve to enhance the rich savoriness of this tomato-based pasta sauce. Higher acidity will cleanse your palate and make each bite taste better than the last.

Cabernet Sauvignon from France or USA

One of the most well-known grape varietals that can grow in many parts of the world. If you prefer your wines a little more fruit forward, riper, and higher in alcohol then we would suggest looking into the new world with regions which have a warmer climate. California and anywhere in Australia would be good choices. Otherwise stick to France if you prefer your cabernets to be quite reserved in style.

Syrah from France or Australia

Another great grape which gives you a nice kick of heat and white pepper on the palate. Syrah or Shiraz (called so in Australia) is one of the stronger wines which pair beautifully with a hearty sauce like bolognese.

Sangiovese/Nebbiolo from, Italy

These wines have high acid levels, and a strong tannin structure giving it great aging potential. Anywhere between 5-15 years would be a good time to drink them. If you prefer those tertiary, earthy mushroomy characters, we suggest drinking them after at least 8 years of bottle aging.

Chianti from Tuscany

Higher in tannins and acidity this one is a no-brainer for spaghetti bolognese. With hints of dried oregano and balsamic vinegar in Chianti, the notes in this wine are ideal for the rich tomato and meat sauce. The tannins help to break down the meaty flavors and enhance the umami in the dish.

Barolo from Italy

For a more meat-forward Bolognese, a younger Barolo is one of the most ideal pairings. The fats in the meat will soften the harsher tannins of a Barolo and bring out the red fruit flavors in the wine.

Cabernet Franc from France

Cabernet Franc is a medium-bodied wine with medium tannins and higher acidity. The herbaceous aromas only serve to enhance your bolognese and the higher acidity can hold its own against the rich tomato paste used in Spaghetti Bolognese.

Best White Wine To Drink With Bolognese

When pairing white wines with bolognese, there are very few options and it is recommended to choose a red over white. However, there is a possibility to pair a white wine with the dish, if and when required. Tomato-based sauces can be a difficult pairing for white wines considering the flavors can overwhelm some white wines. But there are always some exceptions to the rule. Look for a higher acidity to champion the tomato and a fresh herbaceousness to enhance the herbs used in the sauce.

Grenache Blanc from South East France or Australia

Warm climate white wines tend to be more aromatic and flavorful simply because they are able to achieve a better level of ripeness. White Grenache is a great option as they tend to have sufficient alcohol and body while maintaining a good level of acidity, giving it everything it needs to stand up to a hearty sauce like bolognese.

White Rioja from Spain

Once again, a warmer climate with plenty of sunshine will give rise to riper grapes, with bolder flavors to match the heaviness of the bolognese sauce. Spanish wines in general, due to the warm and sunny weather are considered big and bold, both the reds and whites.

Sauvignon Blanc from France

You can’t really go wrong with a good Loire Valley Sauvignon Blanc in general, but this distinctly acidic wine only enhances the tartness of the tomatoes in a bolognese. Look for fruit-forward Sauvignon Blancs. And a bonus point for a herbaceous finish.

Verdicchio from Italy

Verdicchio is a white wine grape variety that has been cultivated for hundreds of years. With its bright acidity, this wine only serves to enhance the rich tomato flavors, especially if there is a creamy element to your bolognese.

Chenin Blanc from South Africa

This pairing works because it brings out the sweet and sour flavors. The higher acidity in the wine balances with the tomatoes, but also brings out a hint of sweetness. Chenin Blanc has a natural ripe fruit character that complements sweeter bolognese.

Best Wine To Drink With Bolognese

A red wine is ideal for bolognese as mentioned earlier. Preferably something not too light so that it does not get overpowered. A few examples being:

  • Chianti from Tuscany
  • Barolo from Italy
  • Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Bordeaux
  • Syrah
  • Italian Reds
  • Merlot