Swedish Meatballs are served in a creamy brown sauce and pair best with light reds such as Beaujolais, Dolcetto, Pinot Noir, and Barbera. For white wine, stick to a sparkling wine, however, if you want something more substantial, an oaked Chardonnay will be delicious with Swedish Meatballs, where the gravy includes lots of cream and butter.
Aside from Ikea (who have released their Swedish Meatball recipe), most of us eat Swedish Meatballs on toothpicks as an appetizer at banquets or perhaps served out of a crockpot at a family gathering or potluck dinner. Incredibly savoury, due to its spices and creamy gravy, Swedish Meatballs require wines with plenty of acidity to cut through the fatty flavours.
Best Wine with Swedish Meatballs
Pinot Noir & Swedish Meatball Pairing
Made from beef, pork, egg, and sautéed onions, Swedish Meatballs have a mellow savoury flavour that a heavier and tannic red wine can easily crush. With its rich and silky flavours of cherry, raspberry and strawberry, Pinot Noir is light enough to jive perfectly with your mellow Swedish Meatball flavours.
For Swedish Meatballs, I’d suggest a warm climate Pinot Noir from California where you’ll find notes of sweet cherries, dark chocolate and smoke (cooler climate Pinot Noir have more of a sour cherry and earthy taste). The notes of smoke and dark chocolate blend in brilliantly with the creamy brown gravy Swedish Meatballs have simmered in.
The one issue with Pinot Noir is that it is expensive. While you can buy budget-friendly Pinot Noir, it’s often not very good as instead of using natural flavours, artificial notes of vanilla, chocolate and fruit are injected into the wine. Thus, while it makes an amazing pair, Pinot Noir is more appropriate for small gatherings than large banquets where Swedish Meatballs are served.
Barbera & Swedish Meatball Pairing
Italian Barbera features velvety notes of cherry and plum and hints of herbs, minerals, spice, and earth. High in acidity, with medium to low amounts of tannin, Barbera will not crush those mellow and creamy flavours of your Swedish Meatballs. The high acidity of Barbera also ensures the wine will cut through all the butter, milk and olive oil fats found in your meatballs, meaning it will wash them off your taste buds. This ensures each bite of your Swedish Meatballs tastes just as delicious as the first.
A lot of Barbera is low in alcohol, making Barbera perfect for Swedish Meatballs served at a cocktail hour or a luncheon potluck at the office. The low alcohol content ensures that the Barbera won’t overburden the flavours of your Swedish Meatballs (as alcohol is a flavour loudness enhancer – meaning the higher the alcohol content, the bolder the wine will be)
Beaujolais & Swedish Meatball Pairing
If your Swedish Meatballs are served at a casual gathering, a simple red wine, such as Beaujolais-Villages, will hit the spot as a perfect pairing. Light and fruity, Beaujolais features juicy flavours of cherries, raspberries and strawberries. These soft and fresh flavours of Beaujolais provide a fresh contrast to the meaty and onion flavours of your Swedish Meatballs. Meanwhile, with Beaujolais, you’ll also find notes of earth, mineral and spice, which complement the brown gravy accompanying your Swedish Meatballs.
Because Beaujolais is so light and fruity, it’s also inexpensive, making this fresh red wine perfect for banquets, cocktail parties, or large gatherings, as it will help keep costs down while appealing to the masses. For banquets, you’ll want to seek out a Beaujolais-Villages if possible. Beaujolais Nouveau is a special type of Beaujolais that is super light and fruity and meant to be drank six months after release. Meanwhile, Beaujolais Cru is a complex version of Beaujolais that can be aged for decades and features deeper notes of earth, mineral and flowers. Beaujolais-Villages, on the other hand, hits that sweet spot in price and complexity to pair with Swedish Meatballs. With that said, all three styles of Beaujolais will pair up just fine – it’s just that if you are buying in bulk, Beaujolais-Villages is the way to go to keep costs down while keeping the crowd pleased.
Sparkling Wine & Swedish Meatball Pairing
An inexpensive sparkling wine such as Prosecco or Cava are wonderful with Swedish Meatballs as the bubbles of the wine, along with its high acidity, keep your mouth refreshed in between bites. With its rich brown gravy, Swedish Meatballs can gunk up your taste buds over time. With sparkling wine, this is not an issue, as the wine carries off all those fats that clog up your sense of taste.
Sparkling wine is light and features crisp and creamy notes of apples, lemon, melon, almond, pear and toast. The most famous sparkling wine is Champagne, and it is often considered the best, however, it also comes with a high price tag. An Italian Prosecco or Spanish Cava are much more affordable and just as delicious. You might not get all the subtle nuances you’ll find with Champagne, however, Swedish Meatballs don’t really scream for the elegance that Champagne serves up. As a bonus, 99% of the population thinks all sparkling wine is called Champagne, so with Swedish Meatballs, why not serve them up something for a quarter of the cost and 80% of the quality.
Chardonnay & Swedish Meatball Pairing
The brown gravy used to simmer your Swedish Meatballs often includes lots of butter and cream, which pairs well with the creamy body of an oaked Chardonnay. With an oaked Chardonnay, you’ll find plenty of delicious flavours of butter, vanilla, toast, caramel, apple, pear and coconut that will make it amazing pairing with your Swedish Meatballs. The apple and pear flavours contrast the savoury, meaty flavours while the butter and toast complement the breadcrumbs, cream and butter used to make the meatballs and gravy.
In terms of oak, go for a lightly oaked Chardonnay. In order to appeal to the masses, popular wineries in Australia and California have turned the oak up to 11 for some of their most popular and best-selling brands. While these brands sell well and appeal to the masses, they don’t represent Chardonnay very well as they offer very little in the way of elegance and subtlety. Instead, you are bombarded with artificial flavours of rancid popcorn and perfumed vanilla. If you like this style, to each their own I say, however, to expand your wine knowledge, seek out Chardonnay that focuses on quality and tradition.