Best wines for Italian food
Learn which wines work best with your favorite Italian dishes, from pizza to risotto
Recipe: Lasagna with Sausage Ragù Redux
Pair with: Carignane. Lively acidicy in this wine makes for bright, crisp cherry fruit, which plays off the tomatoes in the lasagna (acidic tomatoes can kill a low-acid wine). A hit of pepper in the Carignane echoes the spice in the Italian sausage. Recommended bottle: Poets Row 2010 Carignane (Alexander Valley).
Pair with: Sauvignon Blanc. It's a great friend to spring ingredients: Its crisp acidity and fresh herb components warm up to asparagus, peas, and tangy ricotta. Our bottle pick, with a little oak, is a good texture match for rice. Recommended bottle: 1070 Green 2011 Sauvignon Blanc (Napa Valley).
Pair with: Sauvignon Blanc. With both sweet and savory notes, Sauv Blanc is happy with the sweet side of the roasted peppers and prosciutto and at the same time works well with the fresh herbs and salty meat and cheese. Recommended bottle: Cartlidge & Browne 2010 Danc- ing Crow Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc (Lake County).
Pair with: Barbera. The variety, which is coming on strong in California, has the bright red fruit, spice, and acidity to stand up to a classic Italian red sauce. Our bottle pick has an earthy, herbal side that adds a bridge to the mushrooms and fennel in the meatballs. Recommended bottle: Uvaggio 2007 Barbera (Lodi).
Recipe: Delfina's Carbonara Pizza
Pair with: Sémillon. The rich (some say oily) mouth-feel of Sémillon works well with dairy and bacon. And though eggs are generally very hard to pair with wine, our bottle pick has a minerally limestone side that likes the sulfury egg topping on this pizza. Recommended bottle: Chatom 2008 Sémillon (Calaveras County).
Pair with: Cabernet Sauvignon. We’ve dressed this steak down for summer with sauce and greens, so find a Cabernet that’s not so ripe that it’s lost its natural acidity (so it can handle the tomato) and one that has an herbal layer as well, to offer a bridge to the arugula.
Recipe: Puttanesca Meatball Sliders
Pair with: Zinfandel. A lively tartness in the wine’s fruit character keeps up with the tangy tomato sauce in these sliders, and pepper on both sides of the equation echoes back and forth. Recommended bottle: Girard 2008 Old Vine Zinfandel (Napa Valley).
Pair with: Chardonnay. Nuts and onions bring out good things in Chardonnay, and besides the walnuts, the whole-grain pasta has a nuttiness about it that doubles the effect. Our bottle pick also has a tangy side that matches the cheese. Recommended bottle: Jasper Woods 2008 Chardonnay (Mendocino County).
Recipe: Italian Beef Sandwiches
Pair with: A full-bodied red blend, preferably with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Syrah. Cab and Merlot work well with fatty beef chuck, and the spicy fruit and herbs of Syrah to handle the peppery heat and spritely green sauce in this soulful sandwich. Recommended bottle: Goose Ridge red wine 2007 (Columbia Valley).
Recipe: Flank Steak Braciole
Pair with: Malbec. It has a sweet ripeness to it as well as a contrasting dark, brooding side, so we’ve paired it with a full-flavored flank steak stuffed with a savory-sweet leafy green mixture that hints at South American flavors (of which Malbec is a big one). Recommended bottle: Sawbuck Malbec 2007 (Yolo County).
Pair with: Pinot Gris. With crisp layers of lemon, herbs, and minerals over a creamy mouthfeel, it's a great foil for pasta laced with basil and cream.