How to Pair Wine with Meatballs

Grilled Middle Eastern Meatballs Photo © Iain Bagwell. Food styling by Simon Andrews.
By Kristin Donnelly Posted December 06, 2014

Here are five ways to perfectly pair wine and meatballs.

When pairing wine with meatballs (or many meats, for that matter), it’s usually more important to consider the seasonings and sauce than the type of meat itself. Here are five ways to approach your next meatball pairing challenge.

1. Italian style, with tomato sauce
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Many Italian-style reds, including Barbera and those made with Sangiovese (like Chianti) are made for tomato sauce. They have enough acid to pair with the tomatoes and enough heft for the meat.

2. Swedish style
The cream sauce for these lightly spiced meatballs makes them especially delicious with silky-textured Pinot Noir (like those from Burgundy in France or Oregon). If you prefer white wine, a lightly oaked Chardonnay or a richer-style Austrian Riesling is a great choice.

3. Middle Eastern style
Whether they’re made with lamb or beef, the robustly seasoned Middle Eastern style meatballs are great with Grenache and Syrah blends, like those from the southern Rhône in France or Australia. They have a meatiness and spiciness that’s terrific with the spices in these meatballs.

4. Vietnamese style
Flavored with funky fish sauce, fragrant lemongrass and sugar, these chicken or pork meatballs are best with white wine. Look for something unoaked and citrusy, like a Rueda from Spain. If the meatballs or dipping sauce are quite spicy (or very sweet), choose an off-dry Riesling from the Mosel region in Germany.

5. Japanese style
The sweet-and-savory soy-based sauce brushed on Japanese tsukune calls for a juicy, light-bodied red, like Beaujolais (or other wines made with Gamay) or some California Pinot Noirs.

Kristin Donnelly is a former Food & Wine editor and author of the forthcoming The Modern Potluck (Clarkson Potter, 2016). She is also the cofounder of Stewart & Claire, an all-natural line of lip balms made in Brooklyn.

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Best Meatballs in the U.S.


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