Best Wines to Pair with Carbonara

Carbonara is a famous pasta dish from Rome and the Lazio region of Italy. It is usually made with only 6 ingredients and is easy to prepare using pancetta or guanciale, pasta, egg yolk, grated pecorino Romano cheese, freshly ground pepper, and olive oil. In some cases, cream and garlic are also used. It is a very tasty pasta dish but after a few forkfuls you will be needing something to refresh your palate.

Choosing a wine that best showcases the flavours of the dish and offers a refreshing reprieve from the richness of the dish, leads us to a crisp white wine with sufficient zesty acidity. The pork (pancetta or guanciale) is fatty, the cheese is quite strong, the pasta and egg yolk can come across as a bit sweet, fresh ground pepper can be powerful and persistent as there should be an abundance of it. 

Choosing a white wine with crisp acidity will compliment the saltiness of the pancetta as well as the cheese. A wine with a fuller body and vibrant fruit will compliment the pasta, olive oil and egg yolk flavours and textures. A wine with a lovely citrus profile will be a lovely match to the fresh ground pepper. 

Top Wine Pairings for Carbonara:

  • Pinot Blanc
  • Pinot Gris from Poplar Grove Winery
  • Trebbiano
  • Unoaked Chardonnay
  • Albarino, from Terravista

Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris or a fuller style of Pinot Grigio, Trebbiano, a crisp citrusy unoaked Chardonnay would have the right flavour balance and mouth feel, Albarino, a crisp style unoaked Viognier with lemon curd flavours could also be a good match. Albarino and Trebbiano are Italian grapes however there are some Okanagan wineries that grow these grapes and produce delicious wines with them. Sparkling wine with its high level of acidity and refreshing effervescence would pair well too however it would have to have a little residual sugar to match the egg yolk so look for a brut style. Red wine is trickier because tannins can get in the way so must choose a lighter style red wine with low to zero tannins such as Pinot Noir or Gamay, or even Grenache with its higher acidity can work to offset the fattiness of the pancetta.

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Conclusion:

Best wine to pair with classic Carbonara pasta is a white wine with zesty acidity, fruit forward flavours, round mouth feel and a citrus lift through the finish. This would be my choice if you are looking for perfect companions, the wine will enhance the Carbonara and the Carbonara will enhance the wine. Experimenting is the best part of wine and food pairing so have some fun. Enjoy!

Katherine McEachnie, dipWSET

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