My Nan still makes the world’s best Spaghetti Bolognese. Despite only learning how to make it when she was well into her 50’s, when Italian food finally began to enter the homes of everyday Australians as an “exotic” alternative to the average meat-and-three-veg dinner, it is as though she was born knowing a secret recipe handed down through generations of Nonna’s from long ago.
(I think it may actually have more to do with Paul Newman and his sauce empire. But she keeps that secret more well hidden than her sherry bottle.)
Regardless of my best attempts to replicate from scratch the hearty, slow cooked meat ragouts of the Bologna area in Italy, hers is still better. She’s now nearly 90, still lives by herself in her own home, has never been to mainland Europe and still makes my own kids Spaghetti Bolognese when we visit her. And, like me, they think hers is the best.
One thing no-one ever did at family meal times at Nan’s place was drink wine with their spaghetti. (Wine was for the hoi-polloi!) But Italians everywhere would gasp at such a travesty. Medium-bodied red wines and Bolognese sauce are natural bedfellows, lifting what’s (for many of us) a bog-standard meal to new heights of sophistication.
Okay, so “sophistication” is a bit of a stretch. But, a nice, medium-bodied, racy, European-style red will turn any mid-week Spag Bol night into a much classier act. When matching a wine with pasta, it’s the sauce you need to match – not the pasta itself. So with Bolognese, you’ll want some lively freshness and acidity in the wine to cut through the richness of the sauce, allowing a burst of red, ripe juicy fruit to shine through. And a medium-bodied wine is best, so it doesn’t try to compete with the intensity of the sauce.
Add a salad, some freshly shaved parmesan and – if it wasn’t for the children opposite you slurping louder than a freight train and splattering red sauce all over your carpet (where did they come from?) – you could almost be dining in your own little Italian Trattoria.
There’s literally hundreds of medium-bodied, bouncy red wines out there you can choose from but here’s three styles that we think pair wonderfully with Spaghetti Bolognese:
That most quintessential of Italian reds, Chianti, is made from predominantly the Sangiovese grape, so it’s no accident that this is going to be an excellent match for that most quintessential of Italian pasta sauces – Bolognese.
Sangiovese is high in acidity and high in tannins, but you’ll barely notice either when you take a big swig of it and follow it with that meaty, rich, tomato-y sauce. Instead, you’ll be left tasting all the savoury, earthy flavours and the juicy, berry goodness. Right now we’re loving…
Yarrh Sangiovese 2011 $27.00 www.yarrhwines.com.au
From vineyards near Canberra comes this more-gentle-than-average, elegant and very approachable Sangiovese. With some sour cherry yummyness, and light, bouncy characters, it’s perfect to sip while making dinner – as well as for the dinner itself.
Nebbiolo is another northern Italian varietal that’s now doing well in Australia. It is quite similar to Pinot Noir in style, but is much gutsier with more tannins, acidity and depth of flavour. If you’re new to Nebbiolo, give this one a whirl…
Two Italian Boys ‘Pick us up tonight’ Nebbiolo 2010 $20.00 www.twoitalianboys.com
Boys! That’s quite forward isn’t it? And so is this Nebbiolo, which has plenty of front palate juicy, red berry fruit. It’s also packed with lively bounce and has some nice earthy flavours and a toasty finish.
It’s Spanish so you’ll have to put your tongue between your teeth and use your breathiest voice to utter “Grathiano” over the table to your loved one as you pour them a glass. Try one of our favourites, the…
ArtWine Graciano $25.00 www.artwine.com.au
Deep red in colour, and there’s gentle tannins but still enough bounce for a Spag Bol match. Awesome red cherry flavours and hints of warm spice, with good savoury-ness.
By Jane Thomson
Tried any of the wines we’ve listed here? Leave your own review below!