Best Wine to Pair with Pasta Bolognese

With winter upon us thoughts naturally drift towards warm comfort food.  Wit this in mind, IntoWine.com asked our panel of wine experts to suggest a great wine to pair with pasta bolognese:

Because Bolognese is a thick tomato and meat based red sauce, it tends to need a tannin friendly, but acidic wine. Therefore the Palmina 2007 Dolcetto ($20) from Santa Barbara blends seamlessly with Bolognese. The dolcetto’s acid works with the tomato base and the rich ripe fruit blends well with whatever meat used in the sauce. Dolcettos by there nature are built as food friendly wine and certainly it’s a variety you don’t see too often. Of course there are wines available from Italy, but some areas of California are producing outstanding Italian varietals. Palmina focuses of Italian varieties and has quietly been making excellent wines. - Michael Cervin, Wine Judge, Restaurant Critic, and IntoWine Featured Writer

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Buy Anna Maria WinesThe key to a brilliant Bolognese is cooking various meats with simple vegetables and cream for several hours. The enzymes in the cream break down the proteins in the meat and extend the richness of the sauce. To that end, you need a bold red wine to match the amount of flavor in the sauce. My suggestion is the Italian Barbera – in particular Anna Maria’s Abbona Cadò Langhe Rosso. Barbera has enough acidity to cut the richness of Bolognese sauce and a treasure chest of flavors to mirror the sweetness that comes from the vegetable sugars that break down during the extended cooking process. The 2004 vintage of this wine received praise from Gambero Rosso in 2007 receiving the ‘due bicchieri’ award. A bottle of this wine and a plate of Bolognese pasta is the perfect pairing. (About $25) – Ben Spencer is a diploma student with the Wine & Spirit Education Trust and an IntoWine Featured Writer.

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Buy Pago de Larrainzar WinesI love spaghetti Bolognese. I eat it very frequently. I even sometimes order it off the kids menu when I’m not too hungry and I know that a regular portion in an American restaurant is going to be large enough to feed a family of five in England. Spag bol is rarely horrible, always easy to find. However, the secret to making a good Bolognese sauce is to cook the meat and tomatoes with wine and gin. A slug of gin into it is very important. I prefer to use white wine because the red wine tends to make the sauce too dark. Use lots of wine. Bay leaves are also as essential as seasoning with salt and pepper. Mushrooms are a must. Anyway, here I am someone who rarely cooks but had a mother that makes the best spag bol. Gin was the secret ingredient. She not only cooked with it! As for wine pairing? A rich Italian wine, from Chianti, or a good Spanish wine, or a big Portuguese wine. If your budget allows, try Pago de Larrainzar from Spain, otherwise, on the more modest end, Ferreirinha’s Vinha Grande from Portugal. - Bartholomew Broadbent, CEO, Broadbent Selections, San Francisco

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Buy Umberto Cesari WinesPasta with Bolognese sauce is at home in Emilia-Romagna, perhaps the region of Italy with the best food (and that is saying a LOT).  As I have often stated, a shortcut to picking a good wine and food match in Italy is to pick a wine the locals drink with their food.  After all, they have lots of experience.  And, in Italy, if the wine doesn’t work with the food, they don’t drink it.  So, I am going to recommend the Umberto Cesari Sangiovese.  This is the same grape that has gotten fame in Tuscany for its, Chiantis, Brunellos, and other wines.  Just to the east, in Emila-Romagna the grape is more of a workhorse but makes some very nice reasonably priced bottles that go very well with the food.  The regular bottling is available for under $15.  For a few dollars more, the Riserva sees a bit more ageing before being released.  These have nice cherry fruit notes with great acidity to stand up to the pasta and the sauce.  They can be cellared for 5 years or so, but don’t really get better so these are wines that can be bought and drunk than night. - Loren Sonkin, IntoWine.com Featured Contributor and the Founder/Winemaker at Sonkin Cellars.

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Buy Vietti Barolo A few nights ago I had pasta with a rustic Bolognese sauce that was incredible, and although Barolo doesn't quickly come to mind as an obvious match, we drank a 2003 Vietti that reallly worked well. It just depends on the sauce...If you're worried about overpowering the food, a good Chianti is another great option, or a fresh Barbera. Excellent comfort food and wine, especially as it gets colder this winter. - Laely Heron, Owner/Winemaker, Heron Wines

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Buy Rocca di Montegrossi ChiantiWhen it comes to pairing wines with Italian dishes I am a bit of a purist. As this hearty meat based pasta dish hails from Emilia-Romagna, my first inclination is to pair it with a drier style Lambrusco from the same region. The relative lightness of the Lambrusco (made for the grape by the same name) and pure fruit flavors will provide a nice counterpoint to the richness of this dish, and will keep you from getting palate fatigue (i.e. heavy dish, heavy wine). However dry Lambruscos, or wines from Emilia-Romagna can sometimes be difficult to find stateside. If you live near a good wine merchant, definitely ask if they can recommend one. If finding Lambrusco proves to be too difficult don’t knock yourself out.  A bright, fruit driven sangiovese will work great too. I would recommend the 2006 Rocca di Montegrossi Chianti Classico $18.99. - Mulan Chan, Rhône and French Regional Buyer, K&L Wine Merchants