Choosing what to drink with what you eat is a complex task that depends on a mix of instinct, practice, tradition and folklore.
If you ask 10 random diners to say “red” or “white” when you say “Italian food!” at least nine of them will probably say “red.” A robust Italian restaurant’s wine list will often reflect a better balance between the two, but the number of options will often still lean towards a greater number of reds than whites.
Wine choices don’t simply rely on food pairings alone, though.
Wine choices may change seasonally
Pairing red wines with Italian food becomes challenging during the warmer months. Summer is a season to enjoy lighter, more refreshing wines, and many white wines pair beautifully with dishes that tradition says should be served alongside something red.
The “red or white?” distinction is a little foggy anyway, like asking “pork or beef?” — as if the light, tender butteriness of a beef tenderloin and the smoky richness of bacon don’t turn conventional notions of beef and pork on their heads.
You can enjoy any wine on the list with any food at any time, but we can also walk you through some of the finer points of a few Italian wines to help you choose your own pairings!
Explore your options when selecting a wine
When making a wine decision, it helps to have a wine list that includes a large variety of world class wines. With a greater selection, you can tailor your choice to your own preferences, the season, or your dinner for the evening.
Think of the silky, rich, luxurious Amarone della Valpolicella, made from grapes that have been partially dried into raisins before pressing. Or its slightly less rich (and considerably less expensive) younger sibling, Valpolicella Ripasso, whose wine is re-passed through the Amarone grapes, to gain much of the complexity of the former. Both are fantastic choices at an Italian restaurant, but not always a first thought when the outside temperature is nearing 100.
As the Mediterranean temperature climbs, savvy Italians often reach for a sparkling wine. Though champagne is the king of sparklers — and a great, unconventional choice to drink with a rich Bistecca — Prosecco is the Italian version that offers a light, fun accessible way to refresh your palate. Whether with a hearty, flavorful fish like Salmon, or even a mild beef dish, Prosecco can bring something unexpected for wine drinkers of all levels of sophistication.
If still white wines seem a little conventional in the summer months, you can always compromise with a light-to-medium-bodied red wine, like pinot noir. Where California and Washington State tend towards the bigger and bolder styles, Italian pinot noir (often known as pinot nero) dial the fruitiness back a little, and match with everything from grilled lamb to a seared scallop. Rosemary grilled pork ribs pairs beautifully with the Italian pinot noir, as well as Rose Boschendal from South Africa.
But don’t overlook still whites, either. Gavi is a medium-bodied white that will surprise you with a dish of raw tomatoes like a caprese salad, and please you as a great complement to fish. A big bold chardonnay is an unexpected match for a rich beef or pork dish. And soave will offer a light, easy-drinking glass that will refresh you and is the perfect accompaniment to pizza.
For all the advice you get here and other places, though, remember the only truly important rule of wine is this: the best wine is the wine you like. Summer is a great time to step away from the big and bold wines that dominate much of the year, and try something off the beaten path. Break the rules, and break out of the “red or white” dilemma and order something new.
With more than 40 wines available by the glass, we can help you find your “best” wine to match with your favorite dinner any time of year.
Don’t miss il Giallo Osteria & Bar‘s Sous Chef Parker Jorgensen‘s upcoming Summer Grilling Class on June 26th at The Cook’s Warehouse in Midtown. It’s part of the Atlanta Community Food Bank‘s SimpleAbundance series.
Parker, a Zagat “30 Under 30” star, will be teaching the class how to make Grilled Artichokes with mint pesto and ricotta salata, Smoked Trout Bruschetta, Grilled Garlic & Rosemary Pork Ribs and Grilled Peach Napoleon with pecan butter cookie. Check out the link by clicking here and sign up today before the class sells out!
Every Friday – Awesome Buco Friday – Chef Jamie simmers just 10 Osso Buco in fresh herbs and spices for hours and serves them with saffron risotto. These melt in your mouth Osso Buco are available on a first come, first serve basis. And this Friday, enjoy the incredible music of Jody Worrell and Friends, which kicks off around 8:30pm and rocks through the evening. Our own Chef Jamie will even be joining the band after dinner concludes!