Carbonara is a classic Italian pasta dish, traditionally made with cured pork, hard cheese and black pepper. The original style calls for a sauce made of egg yolk and cheese, but outside of Italy, cream is used too.
Whatever variation of ingredients are used, carbonara should be tangy and surprisingly rich and creamy, with delicious flavors of salty pork, sharp cheese and pepper. Ideally, you are looking for a wine that has a good level of acidity and is crisp and flavorsome. It should have a solid structure, but not too many tannins. That sounds difficult, but there is a variety of wines that fit the bill.
Wine Characteristics To Pair With Carbonara
|Medium to Acidic
|Smooth to Medium
|Light to Medium
|Rich fruitiness, crisp acidity and some herbal, earthy or smoky notes.
Although carbonara seems like a simple dish, there are a lot of things to consider. The mixture of spaghetti pasta and egg yolk sauce can be sweet, so you need a refreshing wine with lots of flavor to balance those ingredients. Carbonara can be a heavy dish, full of pork fat and creaminess. This ends up coating the palate, so to enhance your meal, look for a wine that has a good level of crisp acidity, to wash your palate clean. Finally, you need a solid wine with good structure, because lighter-bodied wines will be drowned out by the richness of carbonara.
Best Red Wine To Drink With Carbonara
Whether you choose red or white wine to accompany carbonara is completely up to you. The important thing to know is that while pairing wine with all of those flavors seems difficult, there are actually a lot of options to choose from. Many of them are Italian.
Montepulciano D’Abruzzo is a fun, bold and fruity wine from Abruzzi. Be careful not to confuse it with Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, which is another red wine from Tuscany. It goes famously well with fatty, cheese-rich Italian dishes, and is the go-to wine for pairing with pizza. The texture of Montepulciano is best described as fat and juicy, and it comes with a great deal of acidity. It has more than enough character to stand up to carbonara, and its dark fruit and earthy elements complement the dish wonderfully.
It doesn’t get much more classically Italian than the Sangiovese-based Chianti, paired with a carbonara. You can go for a Chianti Classico, which is at least 80% Sangiovese, or Chianti, which only has to be 70% Sangiovese. It’s probably safer to choose a wine with higher amounts of Sangiovese, as the grape contains notes of herbs, smoke and balsamic vinegar, which will complement carbonara perfectly. Its refreshing acidity is enough to cut through the creamy sauce, and Chianti’s fruity notes will cut through all of the fats and carbs in this dish.
For any dish that requires a high-acid, well-structured wine, Pinot Noir is in contention for pairing. Its earthy flavors are excellent with cured pork, and its crispness will wash away fats, allowing you to enjoy every mouthful of the carbonara. It is light-bodied and low in tannins, so it will really allow the flavors in the carbonara to come through.
We also recommend an Old World style Syrah, bonus points if you can find one produced in Italy. Syrah’s made in Italy and France are usually leaner, lighter and more savory than their New World cousins. It’s a great partner for carbonara because of its earthy notes, which will complement the pork pieces, and its muscular acidity, which will improve every bite of the carbonara.
Best White Wine To Drink With Carbonara
White wines are a great choice with carbonara, especially those that are awash with acidity. Carbonara can be so heavy that light, refreshing white wines will make a fantastic contrast, and those with savory notes will also match the flavor profile of the Italian dish.
Pinot Grigio seems like an obvious choice here – Italy’s most famous white wine, paired with one of Italy’s best pasta dishes. However, it makes sense for a lot of other reasons. Pinot Grigio is brisk and fresh, and versatile enough to pair with carbonara no matter what ingredients are used. Its acidity will wash your palate clean between each bite. It even contains some notes of minerality and earth, which will match brilliantly with the meat in carbonara.
The Garganega grape forms the basis of a couple of Italian white wines, including Soave and Soave Classico. These may be a bit more difficult to find, but they make an excellent match with carbonara. Garganega wines are usually lean and dry, with pleasant acidity. It contains richer and more diverse fruit flavors than Pinot Grigio, which will enhance your carbonara considerably. It also contains a slightly saline element, which along with notes of green herbs, will complement carbonara’s salty side perfectly.
Chablis is another versatile white wine, made from Chardonnay grapes, that will work fantastically with carbonara. Its wiry acidity works particularly well with delicate creamy sauces, and dishes that are low in spice, but have some peppery qualities. It also contains a distinctive salty and mineral element, to match perfectly with the savory pork. Chablis is delicate and will balance nicely with the cheese and meat flavors, rather than overpowering them.
Pairing Wine With Vegetarian Carbonara
Carbonara is typically a meaty dish, but if you’re vegetarian, you can also find options containing asparagus and zucchini instead of pork. These will be slightly less salty, and obviously less meaty, so you probably want to lean towards a white wine. Pinot Grigio is still an excellent choice here, and you can also go for an oaked Chardonnay, which will add buttery notes and match well with whichever vegetables you decide to replace the pork with.
Best Wine To Drink With Pasta Carbonara
Due to being packed with carbohydrates and fats, carbonara is a perfect dish to test the effectiveness of acidic wine, in cleansing the palate. Of course, it doesn’t hurt if the wine is delicious and brings out the best flavors of the dish too. These are your best options for pairing wine with carbonara:
- Pinot Grigio
- Montepulciano D’Abruzzo
- Pinot Noir