Polished Pairings

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Best Wine Pairings with Spaghetti and Meatballs

It doesn’t get much better than a cozy night in with a big plate of spaghetti and meatballs tossed in tomato sauce. But when you want to step it up a notch and add a wine pairing, the possibilities are wide open! Pasta pairings can be difficult because we all make our pasta sauces differently, but for this wine pairing post, we took the concept of a basic spaghetti and meatballs recipe with tomato sauce (or typical tomato-based sauces), ground beef and/or ground pork meatballs, and a healthy serving of parmesan cheese as garnish.

The following wine pairings have general information about the wine, why it pairs well with spaghetti and meatballs (and specifically a pasta dish with red sauce and meatballs or a tomato-based meat sauce), and a few bottle recommendations for a variety of budgets. Cheers!

‣ Sangiovese

‣ Super Tuscan

For this pairing post, we will not be focusing on individual wines from different regions per se, but more of a specific region of Italy and the different types of wines from within; Tuscany.  With spaghetti and meatballs originating in Italy, it seems only fair to focus on Italian wine.  With so many regions in Italy covering 1,750,00 acres, and 377 native varietals to choose from, let’s keep this easy and look deeper into Central Italy and the wonderful full-bodied wines from this region.  We will be talking about the grapes, and then listing the wines that correspond with the grapes. Then we’ll provide some great options and bottle recommendations.

wine glass with red liquid on black table
Photo by Timur Saglambilek on Pexels.com

Sangiovese (full-bodied Red Wine)

Grape(s): Sangiovese

Wine(s): Chianti, Chianti Classico, Brunello di Montalcino / Rosso di Montalcino, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano / Rosso di Montepulciano

Country(ies): Italy

Region(s): Chianti, Montalcino, Montepulciano, Bolgheri, Morellino di Scansano, San Gimignano, Montecucco

Taste Profile(s): Plum, Blackberry, Cherry, Black Cherry, Roasted Tomato, Black Pepper, Thyme, Clay Pot, Leather, Woodsmoke, Espresso, Tobacco, Mocha, Clove, Cinnamon, Vanilla

Specific Notes: The most prolific and widely planted grape variety in Italy, the wines of Sangiovese may be the most paired wines with pasta.  Due to its varying taste profiles, it is a great choice that matches wonderfully with spaghetti and meatballs.  No matter what herbs and spices you may use in your sauce, or meat choices in your meatballs, Sangiovese can rise to the challenge.

Let’s take a look at the various ways you can enjoy this diversified grape. 

ChiantiChianti is a region in the central portion of Tuscany that encompasses eight regions, the most well known being Chianti Classico.  Chianti classify the wines based on the aging requirements of each region and quality of the wine.  With longer aging it may make the price of wines higher than others. Aging requirements are listed below.

  • Gran Selizone – 2.5 years
  • Riserva – 2 years
  • Superiore – 1 year
  • Chianti Classico, Colli Fiorentini, and Rufina – 1 year
  • Chianti Montespertoli – 9 mos.
  • Chiant and others – 6 mos.

Montalcino – From the town of Montalcino comes one of the most well known wines made from 100% Sangiovese.  This clone of Sangiovese makes one of the most powerful wines in all of Italy; Brunello di Montalcino.  Brunello must be aged for a minimum of 2 years in wood, and at least 4 months in bottle.  Growers that want to release their wines before the 4 year mark can release it under the label Rosso di Montalcino.  These wines are typically known as “Baby Brunello” and are made from the same vineyards as Brunello, but not aged as long, and are ready to drink typically without aging.

Vino Nobile di Montepulciano – From another village/town in Tuscany comes Vino Nobile.  Do not confuse this wine with Montepulciano d’Abruzzo.  The Abruzzo wine is actually made from the Montepulciano grape, but Vino Nobile is from a Sangiovese based blend much like Chianti.  Vino Nobile is a very well respected Sangiovese wine, but typically will not cost as much as Brunello. Vino Nobile and Riserva must be aged in wood for a minimum of one year.  Vino Nobile cannot be released before it is 2 years old, and Riserva 3 years old. Vino Nobile also has a Rosso version that is aged for a shorter period of time.

Try These Bottles:

  • Cultusboni, “RS” Chianti Classico DOCG, Italy (under $20)
    • tasting notes: forest berries, spices, and dried plum.
  • Felsina, ‘Rancia’ Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG, Italy (over $25)
    • tasting notes: spicy nose with floral notes and hints of wild berry (red and black), accompanied by mineral impressions and light toasted notes. Spice re-appears on the palate, which displays firm but supple tannins, and the finale is vigorous and taut.
  • Ciacci Piccolomini d’Aragona, Rosso di Montalcino, Italy (over $25)
    • tasting notes: Red berries (raspberries, wild strawberries) with hints of flowers, citrus and spice on the nose open to a medium-bodied palate, with nice structure and fine tannin
  • Casanova di Neri, Brunello di Montalcino, Italy (over $25)
    • tasting notes: Lots of red plums and cherries on the nose with a palate that has a full body, thick silky tannins and a fresh and flavorful finish. The tannins are in good balance against the ripe fruit.
  • Poliziano, Rosso di Montepulciano, Italy (under $25)
    • tasting notes:  Youthful, brambly nose with lots of cherries, strawberries, dried herbs and potpourri. Crunchy and laid-back on the palate with a pristine, firm finish.
  • Dei, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, Italy (over $25)
    • tasting notes:  Brilliant ruby red colour, with garnet tinges as it ages. It has an intense bouquet with aromas of ripe cherries, plums and violets. It represents the perfect combination of structure and elegance: its full body and velvety tannins are balanced by its fine acidity. The wine is decidedly persistent and harmonious.

Super Tuscan (full-bodied Red Wine)

Grapes: Sangiovese, French-origin varietals (i.e. Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Syrah)

Country: Italy

Region: Tuscany

Tastes: Black Cherry, Leather, Graphite, Vanilla, Mocha

Specific Notes: The Super Tuscan wine only came to be known in the 1960’s and 70’s.  Winemakers in Tuscany became wary of the rules and regulations levied against wines produced in the region that stated they could only use Sangiovese and “indigenous varietals” to make Chiantis, Brunellos and the like from the DOCs and DOCGs of the region.  They felt that their wines could be diversified by using grapes that originated in France such as Cabernet, Cab Franc and Merlot.  The Italian government did not agree and gave the wines the lowest designation possible, IGT.  Winemakers, such as Marchese Piero Antinori, didn’t care about the designation and moved forward making the wines they wanted to make. Antinori is regarded as making the original Super Tuscan; Sassacaia.  Since that time almost every winery makes some variation of a Super Tuscan, and the wines have become some of the most expensive bottles coming out of Italy.  There are no rules regarding the aging process of how much time the wines are required to be in barrel or in bottle before being released, but many winemakers are using the same time frames as they would for their DOC and DOCG wines.

Because of the diversity of the grapes being used to make Super Tuscans, their style is a perfect pairing for tomato-based pasta dishes such as Spaghetti and Meatballs.

Try These Bottles:

  • Capezzana, Barco Reale di Carmignano, Carmignano, Italy (under $20)
    • The word Capezzana can be traced back to 840 A.D. when the Medici family leased out the land for the production of wine and olive oil. 
    • Grapes:  Sangiovese, Cabernet, Cabernet Franc, Canaiolo
    • Tasting Notes:  A juicy, vibrant red with raspberry, mulberry, cherry, sage, lemon and spice-box aromas. Medium-bodied with lightly chewy tannins and fresh acidity. Crunchy and energetic.
  • Brancaia, Ilatraia, Maremma, Italy (under $80)
    • Grapes:  Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc
    • Tasting Notes: Intense aromas of black fruit. A firm and silky wine with fine tannins and a luscious finish.
  • Antinori, Tignanello,  Siena, Italy (over $100)
    • From the House of Antinori that created the original Super Tuscan, Sassicaia, comes Tignanello.  An absolutely wonderful representation of Tignanello.  I encourage you to click the link for Antinori and read more about their history that dates back 26 continuous generations.
    • Grapes: Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc
    • Tasting Notes: notes of ripe red fruit especially cherries, strawberries and blackberries are accompanied by delicate floral hints of violets, mallow blossoms and roses. Its bouquet is completed by notes of roasted coffee and cocoa powder. The vibrant entry gives way to a caressing layered mouthfeel. The wine closes with spicy notes of pepper and licorice that merge with pleasant sensations of aromatic herbs for a fresh, lengthy finish.

A bottle of red wine pouring into a glass being held by a hand.

Honorable Mentions:

  • Montepulicano
  • Nero d’Avola

Tips for Serving Wine

When dealing with red wine, it is always best to serve these bottles slightly under room temperature, or anywhere from 55 – 68 degrees Farenheit (or about 13 to 20 degrees Celsius). Lighter reds, such as some Pinot Noirs, are fantastic when served closer to the 55 degree range. 

As always, the best wine pairing is the one that you like the most! All of us have different preferences and tastes, so please experiment with a few different bottles and come to your own conclusions!