When asking our Diploma in Wine, Gastronomy and Management students at Le Cordon bleu London to propose a dish to match with each wine we taste in class, there is always one that favours pasta. Each time, my initial reaction is that they are making it too easy for themselves, and that pasta is a complete cop out. But when challenged to indicate which type of pasta they would choose – whether it is macaroni, noodles, lasagne, ravioli, spaetzli, Pierogi, Shanghai dumplings, Orzo or Manti… - it no longer seems like such an easy ride.
Wine with pasta: Top matches
Viognier with tomato and herb sauce
Beaujolais or Barbera d’Asti with lasagne
Dry White Port or Amontillado Sherry with broth
Furmint with traditional Polish Pierogi – dumplings
Dry Riesling with noodles and spring onions
Full article on drinking wine with pasta
Pasta is a universal dish that can be broken down into dried or fresh varieties, according to the cooking method, and whether it is stuffed or not.
Noodles, Vermicelli, Udon, and others can, for instance, be favourably added to soup;
Boiled pasta can be served on its own or with a sauce such as Spaghetti, Macaroni, or Tagliatelli will be different to these souped varieties.
Pasta Parcels such as Ravioli, Tortellini, Pierogi, Manti and Shanghai Dumpling come with different flavours to layered pastas, such as Rotolo or Lasagne.
There are also some pastas that are pre-cooked and then pan fried, such as Spaetzli and noodles.
Pasta provides the skeleton for a dish, but what really influences the flavour is the cooking method, the sauce, the circumstances, and of course the regional touch.
The classic sauces
A classic Italian way to have pasta is with tomato sauce, garlic and herbs. In this case, to handle the sweet and sourness of the tomatoes, one can opt for a Viognier that is brimming with apricot and orange blossom fruit, but yet possesses enough acidity so as not to become too bitter. A terrific example that we tasted recently is the 2015 Dewaltd Heyns Tulbagh Viognier from South Africa.
Another classic Italian dish is lasagne which tends to be quite rich in flavour, especially if it involves béchamel and minced beef, so a red wine would be perfect. It is better to stay away from oakiness and instead pick a ripe, juicy, fresh style of wine like a barbera from Italy, a Beaujolais, or an Austrian Zwiegelt.
The 2015 Barbera d’Asti “Solo Acciaio” from the Montalbera Winery in Piemonte has enough acidity to balance the creamy béchamel sauce, and its sharp, red berry and herby flavours will be enhanced by the meat.
In a soup, the obvious factor that you have to contend with is the amount of liquid, therefore the wine one chooses needs to be flavoursome enough so that one sip goes a long way. You don’t really want to have to drink more than a glass in addition to a whole bowl of liquid, and in terms of wine pairing, the soup base is key. For example, a traditional way to recycle broth in which meat has been cooked is to add vermicelli. For a classical French Pot au Feu (Hot Pot) the bouillon will be charged with all of the flavours from the meat and vegetables that will have cooked for hours, which also tends to increase the impression of saltiness.
A dried fortified wine like a Dry White Port, a Marsala Vergine Secco or an Amontillado Sherry would be a perfect combination as they will cleanse the palate, cut through the added texture from the pasta, and last for almost eight spoonfulls.
In Europe, pasta parcels are definitely not just for Italians. For instance, the Polish are famous for Pierogi, a popular dish that is taught in our Diplôme de Cuisine. The filling varies but you will often find them filled with sauerkraut, mushroom and pork mince. The parcels are first boiled before being fried with the crisp outside of the dumpling contrasting with the creamy and soft texture of the filling. For this particular dish, a very fresh, mineral, white wine that can cut through the richness of the dough without overpowering the flavour of the relish, is required. A dry Hungarian Furmint, such as the one made by the 2014 Royal Tokaji Wine Company from the Tokaji region should do the trick. It is mineral, pure and juicy with a very pleasant aftertaste of bruised apples and pears.
Last but not at all least, a Japanese dish, such as a bowl of wok fried yellow noodles with Shiitake mushrooms, silken tofu and spring onions will work very well with an Australian Clare Valley Riesling from Skillogalee in a 2014 vintage. The vegetables will enhance the lime aroma of the wine, while yellow noodles definitely deserve the minerality imparted within the region.
These are just a few examples of a number of ways in which pasta and wine can be matched – though pasta here does not refer to the sorry mess that comes out of a can…
About Matthieu Longuère MS
Sommelier in the UK since 1994, he has won numerous awards and accolades for wine lists in the establishments for which he has worked: Lucknam Park Country House Hotel, Hotel du Vin Bristol and La Trompette.
Since joining Le Cordon Bleu in 2013, he has developed the school’s comprehensive Diploma in Wine, Gastronomy and Management; a unique programme which combines the theory of wine with a strong emphasis on practical learning.
Alongside the full Diploma, he also teaches an array of evening classes which are relaxed, yet studious, making them perfect for beginners as well as the more knowledgeable.
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