It probably is no exaggeration to say that grapes and wine are “hard-coded” into Italian culture. Grapes are grown in virtually every part of Italy and Italy produces and exports a lot of wine. Wine is a popular drink and many Italians serve it at both lunch and dinner.
Italian wines are basically food-friendly and complement a wide variety of foods. While there are exceptions, Italian wines tend to be dry, acidic, medium bodied, not highly alcoholic and have pleasant but not knock-your-socks-off flavors. It is this balanced combination of characteristics that make Italian wines the perfect accompaniment with food.
Below are some recommended wine-food combinations. Consider them general guidelines — don’t hesitate to experiment with other pairings that you think will work well.
Sparkling White Wines such as Brut Spumante, Moscato d’Asti, Prosecco.
Serve as an aperitif by itself or with hors d’oeuvres.
Dry White Wines such as Arneis, Chardonnay, Fiano di Avellino, Friuliano, Pinot Grigio, Soave.
Serve as an aperitif with hors d’oeuvres and with seafood, risotto, pasta or vegetable dishes. Dry white wines complement soft, creamy-style cheeses.
Light-Bodied Red Wines such as Bardolino, Dolcetto, Merlot, Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, Valpolicella.
Serve with chicken, light beef dishes, veal, and pasta with tomato or meat sauce.
Medium-Bodied Red Wines such as Barbera, Chianti, Grignolino, Merlot, Nebbiolo, Rosso di Montalcino, Sagrantino.
Pairs well with beef, pork, lamb, turkey, duck and goose dishes. These medium-bodied reds also serve well with sheep’s milk cheeses.
Full-Bodied Red Wines such as Aglianico, Amarone, Barbaresco, Barolo, Brunello di Montalcino, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chianti Classico Riserva, Gattinara, Salice Salentino, Spanna, Taurasi, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano
Serve with braised vegetables, roasts and game meats. Can also serve with pate and hard, aged cheeses. Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese with Barolo or Barbaresco is a classic combination.
Sweet Dessert Wines such as Asti Spumante, Branchetto d’Acqua, Malvasia, Moscato d’Asti, Passito, Vin Santo.
Serve after the meal with cake, cookies, tarts, sweets or fresh fruit. Moscato d’Asti served with or on fresh fruits like strawberries, pears or peaches is a sumptuous match of cosmic proportions. Vin Santo pairs especially well with almond cookies or biscotti. Note — be careful of overly rich desserts that can overwhelm a dessert wine. As a general rule, the dessert should not be sweeter than the accompanying wine.