Pasta Bolognese pairs best with red wines high in acidity and tannin such as Barolo, Pinot Noir, Dolcetto, Primitivo, Nero d’Avola and Chianti Classico. Bolognese sauce is a thick meat-based red sauce that features tomatoes, however, meat is the true star of the show. Recipes for Pasta Bolognese vary, but you’ll often find it made from beef, pork or lamb, along with lots of spices, cream, tomato paste and wine tossed in.
Tomato paste is acidic and will make red wines that are low in acidity taste flat and metallic. Thus, medium to high levels of acidity are always a must with Pasta Bolognese. With that said, there are thousands of variations in recipes and if your Pasta Bolognese sauce contains very little tomato sauce and a whole lot of meat, tannin heavy reds such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz and Merlot should pair up just fine with your meal.
Best Wine with Pasta Bolognese
Chianti Classico & Pasta Bolognese Pairing
Chianti Classico is the best wine to pair up with Pasta Bolognese. High in tannin and acidity, Chianti Classico can handle the meat in your Bolognese Sauce along with the acidic tomato paste.
The tannin in Chianti Classico helps break down the meat flavours, making the Bolognese sauce taste richer and savoury. Meanwhile, the acidity helps keep your palate cleansed, making each bite taste as fresh as the last.
Chianti Classico is adored for its refreshing red and black cherry flavours, along with hints of sun-dried tomato, plum and raspberry. Chianti Classico also has rustic flavours of campfire, black pepper, thyme, leather, cured meat, and tobacco which all mingle perfectly with your meaty Bolognese sauce.
I always suggest Chianti Classico over just ‘Chianti’ as Chianti Classico has more of a guarantee of tasting like traditional Chianti as it is required to be at least 80% Sangiovese. Wines listed as Chianti (without the Classico) are only required to be 70% Sangiovese, and the addition of other grapes such as Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon often change the wine so much, it no longer tastes like a Chianti in the traditional sense.
There are, however, many Chianti bottles that are 100% Sangiovese (which are my favourite), but when you are new to wine, it’s hard to remember these details. Thus, Chianti Classico has made it easy for you, and all wines labelled Chianti Classico (meaning at least 80% Sangiovese) will have a silhouette of a little black rooster on the neck of the bottle. That little black rooster has been my saving grace for decades as when you see it, you are always guaranteed a proper Chianti.
Italian Dolcetto & Pasta Bolognese Pairing
For lighter Pasta Bolognese (pork-based), an Italian Dolcetto makes for a wonderful pairing. Italian for ‘little sweet one,’ Dolcetto is known for its light and vibrant flavours of cherry, raspberry, plum, and strawberry. It’s a wine meant to be drank young as this is juicy and aromatic red wine. On top of its delicious fruit flavours, Dolcetto also has notes of almond, earth, licorice and smoke that all integrate nicely with your Bolognese sauce.
Medium in tannin and acidity, Dolcetto has enough tannin to get along with lighter meats used in your Pasta Bolognese. Meanwhile, while medium in acidity, Dolcetto has enough acidity to cope with the tomato paste in your Pasta Bolognese sauce.
Dolcetto is not a complex wine and is often inexpensive as it’s not a red wine that sees much in the way of oak or ageing. Comparable to Beaujolais, Dolcetto is frisky, fun, and low in alcohol, making it the perfect accompaniment for a Bolognese Sauce recipes that uses lighter meats such as pork, chicken or turkey.
Primitivo & Pasta Bolognese Pairing
Primitivo is the Italian version of Zinfandel, except it has a higher amount of acidity and that classic Italian rustic charm. The acidity of Primitivo ensures the wine will go great with any tomato paste in your Pasta Bolognese, and the earthy flavours of Primitivo complement any herbs, or earthy diced veggies (bell peppers, onions, garlic) tossed into your Bolognese sauce.
Primitivo is an easy-drinking red wine with delicious flavours of plum, cherry, raspberry and jam. You’ll also find warm notes of spice, tobacco, cinnamon, dark chocolate, black pepper and earth, which complement the savoury flavours of your Bolognese sauce.
Soft in tannin, Primitivo isn’t ideal for incredibly meaty Bolognese sauces that are loaded with protein and fat. Thus, if your Bolognese sauce is on this extreme end, I’d highly suggest a Chianti or Barolo. For balanced Bolognese sauces, Primitivo makes for a wonderful drinking partner.
Montepulciano d’Abruzzo & Beef Bolognese Pairing
Montepulciano d’Abruzzo is an Italian red wine with inky dark fruit flavours and earthy with notes of leather, licorice, olives, spice and black pepper. Low in acidity but high in tannin, Montepulciano d’Abruzzo is excellent with beefier versions of Pasta Bolognese.
The high tannin content of Montepulciano d’Abruzzo softens at the touch of all the beef in your sauce, allowing the rich dark fruit flavours of the wine to shine bright. Meanwhile, the earthier and spicier flavours of the wine complement the various ingredients found in your Bolognese sauce.
Montepulciano d’Abruzzo is an inexpensive Italian red wine, and it makes for a fun pairing if you are on a budget. Not every one appreciates the earthy and leathery flavours of Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, and thus, this is something I’m more akin to drinking at home alone than bringing to a dinner party where Beef Bolognese is being served.
Barolo & Pasta Bolognese Pairing
For beefier versions of Pasta Bolognese, a young Barolo makes for an excellent match as the wine is loaded with lots of tannin and acidity to conquer the mountain of meat and tomato paste in your Bolognese sauce. Furthermore, the high amounts of protein and fat in your Bolognese sauce soften the tannin found in the the Barolo, making the wine drinkable, and allowing all of its vibrant fruit flavours of blackberry, cherry and plum shine through.
While aromatic of roses on the nose, and transparent red in colour, Barolo looks and smells like a dainty red wine. However, this is a trap! Without a heavy amount of protein and fat, a young Barolo is going to punch you in the face with its astringent tannin.
Barolo also features notes of white truffle, violet, tar, tobacco, smoke, leather and chocolate, which all get soaked up by the Pasta Bolognese sauce, enhancing the sauce’s flavours.
For a balanced Bolognese sauce, an aged Barolo is much more appropriate. By aged, we mean the bottle is at least a decade (but preferably two decades) old. With an aged Barolo, the tannin will already be soft, and thus, you only require a bit of meat to enjoy the red wine. A balance Bolognese sauce will also help showcase all the wonderful Barolo flavours in the red wine as neither the sauce nor wine will overshadow one another.