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Pairing Wine With Polenta

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Polenta is essentially a type of porridge, made from boiled cornmeal. It is very simple and has been eaten for a very long time. It is a staple of Italian, Swiss and Balkan cuisine, particularly in Northern and Central Italy. While it is fairly straightforward to make, it can be served in a variety of ways, often with polenta serving as the base, topped with a more flavorsome ingredient, such as a sauce.

Polenta is quintessentially Italian, and it deserves an Italian wine to go with it. While it is simple, it is also pretty hearty and comforting, so we’ll be taking that into account, and looking at red wines for the most part. 

Wine Characteristics To Pair With Polenta

Characteristic Detail
Sweetness Dry
Acidity High
Tannins Medium
Body Medium to Bold
Tasting Notes Rich flavors, dark and red berries, notes of tomato, earthiness and herbs

There is a common pattern around polenta dishes, and that is they contain lots of typical Italian flavors. Think of red sauces, hard spicy cheeses and succulent red meats. Generally speaking, you’re going to be looking for Italian red wine, simply because nothing else is going to be as good more than likely. It should be big and flavorful, to stand up to the classic flavors and richness of a polenta dinner. Occasionally, there are lighter, creamier sauces that go with polenta, and seafood too, so we’ll take that into account. 

Best Red Wine To Drink With Polenta

The general opinion is that Sangiovese is the way to go. It is hearty and comforting, just like polenta, and ticks all of the right boxes for matching with red sauces, and any other hearty topping.

Nobile di Montepulciano

Not to be confused with Montepulciano D’Abruzzo, Nobile di Montepulciano is made from Sangiovese, and is one of the oldest wines in Italy. It is medium-bodied, with a palate-cleansing acidity that can cut through any stodginess in the polenta. It is very food-friendly, and can be paired with a variety of toppings. Its earthy and spice notes make it an excellent companion for polenta with game, or polenta with meaty red sauces. 


Chianti contains the classic Sangiovese notes of balsamic vinegar, tomato leaf and smoke. It is ideal for cutting through the hearty polenta, and its flavors will match almost all of the toppings that the dish can come with, including hard cheeses and gamey meats. Chianti Classico contains more Sangiovese and is probably the way to go. 

Rosso Di Montalcino

Rosso di Montalcino is a warming red wine with bright acidity. It is more light-bodied and food-friendly than its cousin, Brunello di Montalcino, and would make a perfect match for a wholesome polenta dish. It has enough body and acidity to stand up to the thick carbohydrates, but is also quite agile and versatile. Its fresh red fruit flavors will complement a wide variety of polenta dishes, from mushroom sauces to dense, gamey meats. 

Best White Wine To Drink With Polenta

Polenta can also be served with vegetables, fish or mushrooms, so some acidic, fruity white wines can be suitable pairings too. Just bear in mind that polenta is a wholesome meal, and full of carbohydrates, so the white wine has to be crisp enough to cut through that, while having enough fruity flavors to match your topping. Rosé is also a great option. 

Pinot Grigio

Pinot Grigio is great with Italian food. It is tart and crisp, perfect for cleaning your palate after a mouthful of polenta and creamy sauce. On top of that, it offers quite neutral flavors, so it can be paired with a variety of different polenta toppings. 


Yes, the first non-Italian wine in this article. Chardonnay has to be mentioned because it is often aged in oak barrels, which imparts savory and buttery flavors. It is high in acid, so it can chop through the facade of carbohydrates and any creamy sauce, and match beautifully with the slightly sweet and buttery corn flavor present in polenta, as well as any seafood variations. 

Pairing Wine With Polenta Prepared Different Ways

Polenta can be served on its own, but it is more common as a base for a more flavorsome topping. These are some of the most common polenta variations, and the wines that suit them best. 

Polenta With Cheese

Also known as polenta concia, this is a basic form of polenta, with added cheese. It is rich in fat and carbohydrates, and is a fantastic energy food, particularly in cold climates. It would pair excellently with any fruit forward red wines, but especially robust Tuscan Sangiovese wines.

Polenta With Buckwheat

When polenta is made from cornmeal and buckwheat mixed together, it is called polenta taragna. Sometimes it’s made completely from buckwheat. Buckwheat is slightly less dense, and tastes more sour than cornmeal, so a white wine is a good option here. Something crisp like Pinot Grigio, or perhaps a low tannin red like Chianti or Beaujolais.

Polenta With Mushroom Sauce

Polenta can also be made with a simple mushroom sauce, served with mushrooms. Sangiovese can have earthy qualities, so it is still a good option, particularly the versatile Rosso di Montalcino, but you can also try a Pinot Noir. 

Polenta With Tomato Sauce

In classic Italian style, polenta is often served with a ragu, containing tomato puree, and red wine. Sometimes this version can also contain meat, and the sauce is more akin to a goulash. A robust wine will be ideal, so stick to a Sangiovese style. 

Polenta With Seafood

Polenta can also be served with a creamy fish sauce, containing chunks of white fish, like cod. Pinot Grigio and Chardonnay will be excellent, cutting through the cream with their acidity, and in the case of Chardonnay, matching the hearty buttery qualities of polenta. 

Polenta With Meat

Finally, polenta is a common base for a dish with rich red meat, or dense gamey meats. For this, you can go down the route of robust red wines, and look towards Sangiovese, a meaty Syrah, or be daring, and go for a bold Primitivo/Zinfandel. 

Best Wine To Drink With Polenta

Polenta is a filling dish, often enjoyed in cold weather as a comfort food. Generally speaking, red wines are the best way to go, but it absolutely depends on personal preference and which style of polenta you are eating. These are the best options, which will cover most of your bases:

  • Rosso di Montalcino
  • Chianti or Chianti Classico
  • Nobile di Montepulciano
  • Pinot Grigio
  • Chardonnay

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