White or red wine? What's the best pairing for risotto?
Talking about wine matches for risotto is a bit like talking about wine with pasta - it’s depends on the other ingredients you use, not the rice.
That said it’s usually a delicate, creamy sort of dish which is served among the primi (first courses) on an Italian menu and generally suits a white better than a red. It’s also typical of the northern half of Italy rather than the south, particularly the Piedmont area which points to an Italian white from that region.
Spring vegetable risotto
With a light risotto made with spring vegetables like asparagus or courgette (zucchini) flowers or with seafood like shrimp or prawns I’d drink a Gavi, Soave or a Roero Arneis or - and this might surprise you - a glass of dryish* prosecco.
If the risotto was a bit richer - made with crab or scallops for example - I’d go for a richer white wine but still one with some acidity - a light creamy chardonnay for example or a pinot bianco. Premier cru Chablis, although not local, would be a good match and I have enjoyed a crisp fresh-tasting sauvignon with this style of risotto
Chardonnay, especially white burgundy, is also a good pairing for a chicken or a mushroom risotto which tend to be richer and more savoury but you could also drink a pinot noir or a Barolo, even though this is not traditional in the region. (They generally save it for the meat course and drink a Barbera.). If truffles are involved, I would.
I’d also drink a red wine with any risotto that was made with red wine, served with meat or one that was based on beetroot. Barbera would probably be my top choice but again pinot noir would work very well especially if that's the wine you use in the recipe.
I also prefer an earthy red like Barbera with a risotto made with saffron like the classic risotto all Milanese but again you could go for a crisp white like a Gavi.
And for rich pumpkin or butternut squash I might go for a richer style of chardonnay or viognier.
Enjoying a risotto is all about the creaminess of the dish and the texture of the rice so you don’t want a wine that’s too intrusive either in terms of fruit character or tannin. So I personally wouldn’t go for a pungent New Zealand style of sauvignon blanc or a full-bodied red like a cabernet sauvignon or shiraz. Feel free though if it works for you.
* I deliberately use the word ‘dry-ish’ rather than 'dry' because that’s a classification in the prosecco region that actually means medium-sweet’. You want to look for ‘brut’ style proseccos.
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