Red Wines to Pair with Pesto – Open Up New Possibilities With These

Last Updated on August 1st, 2023

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Pesto is a pasta sauce that holds a beautiful emerald green color, much different from the traditional tomato or white cheese sauces. Pesto is typically made with ingredients such as garlic, pine nuts, basil, coarse salt, and grated hard cheeses like Parmigiano-Reggiano. 

This beautiful Italian sauce can be traced back to the mid-nineteenth century, originating in Genoa, the capital of Liguria, Italy. So what kind of wines do Italians pair with this ancient sauce? 

What wines should be avoided when serving cuisine with pesto? Let’s explore the wines that fit perfectly with pesto, so you’ll know your options when planning your next dinner party.

Wine in a glass in front of white surface and light fall on it - Red Wines to Pair with Pesto – Open Up New Possibilities With These.

Which Wine do Italians Serve with Pesto?

There’s no doubt that there’s a selection of wines that Italians pair with Pesto dishes. However, if you don’t have an Italian grandma living down the street, it might be hard to determine the right Italian wines to pair with a unique sauce. 

Listed below are three Italian wines that are considered to be a good pair with pesto:


  • Sauvignon Blanc – notes lime, clove, lemongrass, and tarragon
  • Vermentino – notes: almonds, lime zest, green apple, and other floral notes
  • Catarratto – notes lemon zest, oranges, and other floral and herbal notes


Does Pinot Noir Pair with Pesto?

Yes, Pinot Noir is a good option when in search of a red wine that pairs with pesto. This is because the wine is said to really define and compliment the heavy herbal notes of the sauce. 

Although it’s not the most popular pairing, it’s still a good choice if you want to experience a variety of different wines with the sauce without overwhelming the flavors of the wine or the dish. 


Should You Avoid Pairing Pesto with All Red Wines?

Before eliminating all red wines in fear of none of them pairing with the dish, it’s recommended to try the combination you want to try before making this harsh choice. 

As listed above, Pinot Noir is a good red wine choice that is said to compliment the pesto nicely. However, there is a reason to consider favoring a white wine for this dish over red wine.

White wines are more favorable for this dish for the sole purpose of the white wine being a good refresher with the pesto. Not only is it refreshing, but it also offers a balance of flavor intensity for both the dish and the wine. 

Some individuals will even use white wine to make their pesto because that’s just how good they are together.

Red wines are acceptable but not a favorable pair for this dish mainly due to the common conflicting berry notes (cherry, raspberry, strawberry, blackberry) that may ultimately leave you with an unpleasant experience. 

Overall, it may be fun to play around with different red wines when it comes to pesto, but if you want to play it safe, stick with the white wines.


Cabernet Franc vs. Chianti, which one goes better with pesto?

While the verdict is up to you on which of these wines will pair better with the pesto, let’s talk a bit more about the two wines pairing with the sauce individually and more in-depth. 

Allowing you to develop a different perspective when choosing which wine to try first! Yes, please try them both, don’t limit your pallet to a large possibility of notes and flavors.

Cabernet Franc is a dry red wine that originates from France. It carries notes of strawberry, raspberry, bell and chili pepper, and other mineral notes, making this wine another good option for a red wine to pair with a Pesto dish. 

The wine pairs nicely with pesto, mainly because of its pepper notes. The bell and chili pepper notes of the wine are found to really compliment the sauce.

Chianti is a dry red wine that originates in central Tuscany. The wine carries rustic notes of cherry, strawberry, smoke, balsamic vinegar, and other dried herbal notes. Due to the base notes being dried herb, this wine pairs well with pesto.

Whichever one you decide to try first, it’s important to keep in mind that when pairing these wines with Pesto sauce, it’s recommended to add the meat with the dish to really level out those berry notes. 

So consider adding not only white meats like chicken and pork but also a lightly seasoned tuna that may fit with the dish nicely. 


Are There Any White Wines You Should Avoid Pairing With Pesto?

However, there are no specific wines to avoid. Instead, there is a very specific style to avoid when in search of white wine to pair with pesto. White wines aged in oak might be one of the worst styles of wine to pair with Pesto sauce. There are two reasons for this.

First, the strong herbal notes of pesto will clash with the common notes of nutmeg and vanilla in white wine. Second, the tannins that come with those white wines aged in oak will leave you with an extremely bitter taste when paired with the pesto. 

The pair is certainly uncanny and will certainly leave you and your guests with an unpleasant cuisine that will not be enjoyed. 

Final Thoughts on red wines pairing with pesto

Some Italians might serve Sauvignon Blanc, Vermentino, or Catarratto with a Pesto. However, there are plenty of other good selections to consider. 

While red wines like Pinot Noir are considered to pair well with pesto, it’s hard to pair red wines with this dish in general. Mainly because many red wines have berry notes that clash with the savory herbal notes of the sauce itself. 

While many enjoy pairing red wines like Cabernet Franc and Chianti due to their unique notes of pepper and dried herbs, it’s up to you to decide which you prefer to serve with pesto cuisine. 

Keep in mind, however, that when pairing these wines with the sauce, add in your meat of choice alongside the cuisine to assist in leveling out the notes of the wine and the pesto. 

White wines are considered a more favorable choice when searching for a wine to pair with this dish. However, white wines aged in oak do not pair with the pesto and will certainly ruin the experience of the cuisine.