The Right Way To Pair Wine With Italian Food, According To An Expert

In Italy, wine is its own food group, so it makes sense that it would pair well with Italian food. Food pairing can seem like a foreign language, but it's pretty straightforward when you keep a couple of tricks in mind. That's why we reached out to Andrea Card, Senior Winemaker at Francis Ford Coppola Winery, to see if she could help us figure out the answer to life's greatest mystery: What wine is supposed to be in our left hand when we're holding a slice of pizza in our right?

Say you're preparing dinner, and the time has come to decide what to drink. You'll always start by considering the food being served. If you have a really special bottle of wine and you want to plan your meal around it, that's fine, but that's going to be the rare exception. So we're looking at the food, and we're asking ourselves: How bold is this dish? As Card explained, "Bolder dishes should be complemented with wines that have a bolder flavor profile."

A wine for any occasion

When we say a bold dish, we mean something like a bolognese or lasagna. Lasagna has thick noodles, a generous portion of protein, and a juicy red sauce. It's big, it's filling, it's full of flavor. If you pair that with a light white wine like Pinot Grigio, the difference is going to stand out. You won't be able to appreciate the flavor of the wine because it's being drowned out by the lasagna. So you pair it with something bigger like a Cabernet Sauvignon, which is able to compete with the food and contributes to a more cohesive whole.

In warmer weather, Card enjoys a lighter dish like Cavatappi Pasta with Pesto, which isn't nearly as bold as lasagna. "Dishes that are lighter should be partnered with a lighter wine that contains more prominent earthy and or acidic notes," said Card. If you went with the Cabernet Sauvignon, the wine would drown out the pasta, so it's time to tone it back and go with something like a Sauvignon Blanc, which hits all the notes Card recommends. It's all about balance and finding complementary natures that will play well together.