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Your palms are so sweaty by the time you’re finished talking that you almost drop the phone after you click it off.
You’ve just talked to your new significant other and have invited them to a casual Italian dinner at your place next week. And now the panic starts.
What’s the right pasta dish? And what’s the right wine to serve with the pasta you choose?
First, take a deep breath and stop panicking. This is just dinner and you’ve got this.
Second, your friends at Personal Wine have got your back! Check out our simple guide below to plan and execute the perfect pasta and wine pairing.
Here are some popular wines and the best pasta dishes to pair them with so the food and the wine bring out the best flavors in each other – and make you look like a culinary hero.
This red wine is rich and hearty, with flavors of dark berries, violets, and oak spice running through it. Because it’s full-bodied, it needs to be paired with a dish that also has strong flavors so it doesn’t overpower the food.
Best served with: A pasta with a thick and hearty tomato-based sauce, which allows the acidity of the tomatoes to balance with the richness of the wine.
This is a lighter red that’s a little more delicate in flavor. Pinot Noir displays a broad range of flavors including black cherry, raspberry, rhubarb, earth, and cola.
Best served with: A cheesy pasta, which allows the nuanced flavors of the wine to be heightened by the sharp tang of the cheese. It’ll go even better if you add some root vegetables or mushrooms as the earthy notes of these will help create an even better balance between the food and the wine.
Like Cabernet, Merlot is full in body, but it is typically softer in texture and more approachable in youth. It’s a well-balanced wine that displays aromas and flavors of ripe plum, blackberry, and fresh herbs framed by velvety tannins.
Best served with: A pasta with tomato-based sauces, such as a hearty Bolognese with bacon or mushrooms.
This is a light and crisp white that tends to have higher acidity and signature aromas of fresh citrus, tropical fruit, and herbs. It’s fruity and fresh with no oaky or earthy taste to it.
Best served with: A pasta with an oil-based sauce like a pesto, which is typically made with basil and pine nuts. However, remember that you can make pesto out of a variety of herb/nut combinations, something to keep in mind if you know that the bottle of Sauvignon Blanc you like pairs very well with a certain herb.
Chardonnay can be made in a wide range of styles depending on the climate and the use of oak. Unoaked examples from cooler climates like Burgundy show notes of green apple and crushed rock framed by high natural acidity, while oaked examples from warmer areas like California are richly textured with flavors of ripe tropical fruit and butterscotch.
Best served with: Unoaked Chardonnay works well with cream or oil-based sauces, especially over fresh vegetables. Oaky Chardonnay is perfect with richer dishes like vegetarian lasagna or spaghetti carbonara.
This white wine is medium-bodied and pale in color. The wines display telltale aromas of stone fruit and bitter almond, and can range from from fruity and dry to tropical and spicy depending on where it is grown. This variety might seem to make it a challenge to pair with pasta, but like the others on this list, it is a versatile partner with pasta no matter which end of the flavor profile the wine is.
Best served with: A pasta with seafood, especially one that also has a little heat to it. A simple dish of pasta, shrimp, garlic, and chili peppers complements a bottle of Pinot Grigio.
Now that you’ve conquered food and wine pairings, how do you serve it correctly?
There are a variety of different wine glasses out there, and they are each designed to go with a different type of wine to help maximize the taste of the vino. Generally, red wine glasses tend to be larger with wider rims and bigger bowls. White wine glasses tend to be medium-sized with smaller rims and narrower bowls.
If you’ve decided to ditch the stress of food prep and just meet your significant other at your favorite local Italian bistro, you’ll still want to be prepared about how to order the right wine to go with the right dish.
First, check out the restaurant’s menu online so you get an idea of one or two things you might want to order. Then take a look at the above pairings to know which wine will go with the dish that you’ve selected. You’ll always want to have two food/wine pairings pre-selected in case the restaurant happens to be out of the first wine or food item that you chose.
You may be expected to taste the wine when your server brings it to your table. Don’t panic. You don’t need to be a sommelier or even an experienced wine drinker to do this right. Just remember the four S’s: study, swirl, smell, and sip.
If all seems good, ask the server to pour the wine. If anything seems off, politely ask for the server to bring a new bottle.
What incited panic a few minutes ago is now a much simpler task. Now take it just one simple step further to really impress your date at home and personalize the wine bottle’s label. Your significant other will see that you not only know your wine and pasta pairings, but that you thought ahead to give the evening an extra sweet touch.