Rich and earthy red wines such as Barolo, Barbaresco, Super Tuscan, Lagrein, Malbec, Côte Rôtie and Châteauneuf du Pape pair best with the braised meaty flavours of Osso Buco. Osso Buco is either veal or beef shanks that are braised in a tomato-based sauce to the point where the meat is tender, rich and saucy. The rich stew is then traditionally served over risotto or mashed potatoes, making Osso Buco the perfect winter warmer.
What is the Difference Between Veal and Beef Osso Buco?
Beef Osso Buco will be more flavourful and taste stronger than Veal Osso Buco. Thus, with Veal Osso Buco, and its delicate and sweeter flavour, Pinot Noir, Chianti Classico, Barbera and Dolcetto, which are all lighter reds, are possible pairings. The high acidity of these lighter red wines also helps cut through the rich sauce and balances nicely with any tomatoes in the suace.
With Beef Osso Buco, the dish will be much too flavourful and may drown out these lighter red wines. Some food and wine enthusiasts consider Amarone the ultimate wine pairing with Osso Buco, however, I find that this wine even drowns out a hearty Beef Osso Buco. While flavourful, Osso Buco is also fall-off-the-bone tender, and a syrupy Amarone full of dried fruit, bitter chocolate and cherry flavours swamps those tender flavours. Lighter styles of Amarone do exist, and those more traditional styles (which currently aren’t popular) are well worth seeking out with Osso Buco.
Osso Buco translates to ‘Hole in the Bone’ as the shank bone is often hollow but full of a delicious bone marrow that people love to slather on crusty bread.
Barolo is an Italian red wine that full-bodied and loud with flavours of blackberry, cherry, truffles, licorice, roses, tar, violet and tobacco. Many consider it the King of Red wine and for good reason, Barolo is intense. While floral with its notes of roses and violets, Barolo punches you right in the face immediately with its heavy tannin. That’s why it’s often best to age Barolo first before drinking it, as the tannin certainly doesn’t hold back any punches.
The meaty richness of Osso Buco fortunately tames the tannin in young Barolo, allowing for the more complex notes of truffle, dark chocolate and licorice to shine. The earthy truffle flavours merge wonderfully with the earthiness of the sauce, while the crushed fruit flavours of the wine refresh your taste buds with every sip of wine. Meanwhile, the tannin found in your glass of Barolo is going to further break down the meat in your Osso Buco, making the meat taste even more flavourful. While you can get away with a young Barolo with Beef Osso Buco, I’d suggest you go with an aged Barolo for Veal Osso Buco.
Aside from its high tannin, Barolo is also high in acidity ensuring your glass of wine will pair up perfectly with the tomato braised sauce your Osso Buco was braised in. This acidity also allows you to taste any chopped up bell peppers, celery, onions, garlic, carrots and herbs that were carefully simmered into the amazingly meaty sauce.
Barbaresco and Veal Osso Buco
Barolo and Barbaresco both hail from the Piedmont region of Italy and are both made from the Nebbiolo grape. The main difference, however, is that Barbaresco is much more elegant and not as loud in flavour as a Barolo. This lack of loudness makes it better suited for Veal Osso Buco, where it’s easy to wash out the tender veal flavours. While Barolo is hailed as the King of red wine, Barbaresco is often quoted as the Queen.
Incredibly floral with notes of violets and roses, Barbaresco also showcases intense flavours of cherry, crushed blackberry, espresso, vanilla, tar and tobacco, which meld perfectly the hearty braised meat and sauce of Osso Buco. Similar to Barolo, you’ll want to age your Barbaresco for a couple of decades before cracking it open and serving it beside a hearty plate of Osso Buco. While the meatiness of this dish will tame the tannin in the wine, you’ll be missing out on a lot of the hard-earned and subtle flavours of Osso Buco by pairing it with a youthful and tannic Barbaresco.
Sangiovese based Super Tuscan and Osso Buco
There are no hard and fast guidelines when it comes to making a Super Tuscan wine. Super Tuscan is an invented label with no strict guidelines as it refers to any wine from Tuscany that can use grapes that are not native to Tuscany. For example, Tignanello, the most famous Super Tuscan, is a blend of 80% Sangiovese, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Cabernet Franc. However, a Super Tuscan could be 100% Cabernet Sauvignon, or it might be a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Sangiovese.
The key with Osso Buco is to have a Super Tuscan that is heavy with a blend of Sangiovese. High in acidity, Sangiovese ensures the wine will co-exist beautifully with the tomato-based braising sauce used to make your Osso Buco. The acidity helps cut through the creamy and starchy mashed potatoes or risotto, which can dull your taste buds from all the carbohydrates, cream and butter used to cook them up.
Should your Super Tuscan be a blend of Sangiovese and a few other grapes, expect refreshing fruit flavours of plum, cherry, blackberry, or raspberry elevate the dish. Meanwhile, earthier notes of licorice, tobacco, espresso, white pepper, and clove seal the deal to a fantastic marriage of wine and food. Expect to pay a lot of money for a quality Super Tuscan, and if you are new to wine, I would avoid it completely as a lot of what makes this style of wine so special will go way over your head.
In fact, with Super Tuscan wines being so expensive, they often go over the heads of those who can afford them, as they are often bought for bragging rights. Sure, Super Tuscan are cult favourites among wine lovers who love every drop of the wine, however, the majority of these wines are also snapped up by the wealthy as a status symbol. This is not something I have an issue with, but more or less something I noticed from my decades as a wine sommelier.
Regardless, if you do ever come across a bottle of Super Tuscan, and you see that it contains a high level of Sangiovese, pair it up with Osso Buco!
Argentina Malbec & Beef Osso Buco Pairing
All of the wines mentioned above are ‘hella’ expensive, and if you’re new to wine, all of the qualities that make them special will go right over your head (the fact that the wines are delicious will stick with you, however.) An Argentinian Malbec, provided it’s not oaked, is incredibly affordable, and will be lovely with Beef Osso Buco. Obviously, an oaked Malbec will be even more flavourful and exceptional with Osso Buco, however, expect to pay $40 to $70 for this tier of Malbec.
An inky Malbec is swimming with loud flavours of black cherry, dark chocolate, plum and spice, which hold up perfectly to the flavourful Osso Buco. .You’ll also find hints of black pepper, tobacco, earth and game that further elevate this pairing. Like I mentioned above, a $20 of Malbec will be fine with Osso Buco, but if you have the budget and want to treat yourself, go with a more flavourful and oak-aged Malbec.
Châteauneuf du Pape & Osso Buco
Châteauneuf du Pape is a bold and flavourful red wine that serves up fruity flavours of cooked cherry, blackberry and raspberry. You’ll also find hints of herbs, meat, black pepper, licorice, tar, smoke and gamey flavours in this complex red wine that make it exceptional with Osso Buco.
High in tannin and moderate to low in acidity, Châteauneuf du Pape is best reserved for Osso Buco that hasn’t been braised in a heavy tomato sauce. Tomato clashes with tannin, so if your wine isn’t high in acidity, the tannin will make the red wine taste metallic and oxidized.
Châteauneuf du Pape is a blended red wine from the southern Rhone Valley of France and is typically a blend of Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre and Cinsault. It may include other grapes as well, with each producer having its own blend. While full-bodied, Châteauneuf du Pape gamey and meaty flavours make it a winner with veal and beef Osso Buco and shouldn’t overpower either.
Infinitely complex, Châteauneuf-du-Pape is not cheap, so if you are looking for a more affordable substitute, seek out a Gigondas or Cotes Du Rhone for a more affordable pairing. Still, Châteauneuf-du-Pape is much more affordable than a Barolo or a Super Tuscan, as it doesn’t require any serious ageing and is often drank within five years of being produced.