Updated July 18th 2023
Which food goes best with Chianti - one of the most famous Italian red wines? Chianti food pairing is fun and interesting because this rustic medium-bodied red wine pairs well with so many dishes, including tricky flavors like tomato. This is the wine guide to help you find the best food pairings for Chianti.
Chianti is known for being an excellent wine together with food. This popular Italian wine is balanced with high acidity and high tannins. Together with its savory and smokey profile, Chianti is an excellent wine pairing for tomato-based sauces, meaty pastas, pepperoni pizza, steak and many different types of cheeses. Let's find out everything you need to know about Chianti food pairing!
Chianti is arguably one of the most popular and famous red wines from Italy. Chianti is not a grape variety, but a red blend from Tuscany in Italy. The Chianti blend consists mostly of Sangiovese grapes. Chianti must contain at least 70% Sangiovese, whereas Chianti Classico must have at least 80%. The remaining part of the blend consists of other red grape varieties, such as Canaiolo, Colorino, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. White grapes are not allowed in the Chianti Classico blend, but up to 6% can be used in the Chianti blend. Usually the white grapes Malvasia and Trebbiano are used in Chianti.
Chianti is a dry, medium-bodied red wine with high acidity and high tannins. It is often described as a rustic, earthy, spicy, tart and smokey wine with red fruit aromas. Red cherry, dried herbs, tomato, tobacco and meat are common aromas than can be identified in Chianti. Its color is bright red, sometimes translucent, and its texture is often described as velvety.
You might notice that the wine label sometimes says “Chianti” and other times “Chianti Classico”. That is because there are different categories of Chianti. Like all Italian wines, the Chianti region has its own rules and it can be quite complex. To make it easier for you to understand the difference, we have highlighted the main differences between Chianti and Chianti Classico.
First, they are two different and separate DOCG (Designation of Controlled and Guaranteed Origin) and produced in two different areas of Tuscany. The grapes for Chianti Classico can only be produced in a relatively small area, in the Florence and Siena provinces. The name “Classico” comes from the fact that the Chianti Classico area covers only the parts of the towns where Chianti was originally produced. Chianti (not Classico) is produced in a larger area which covers Arezzo, Florence, Pisa, Pistoia, Prato and Siena.
Only red grapes are used in the production of Chianti Classico, and it must contain at least 80% Sangiovese. Chianti needs to have at least 70% Sangioviese and may also contain up to 6% white grapes. Chianti Classico is easily recognised by the black rooster on the neck or top of the bottle.
Another difference between Chianti and Chianti Classico is the aging. Classico is usually aged longer, a minimum of 11 months, which gives a richer wine. Chianti Classico Riserva is aged at least 24 months.
In terms of food pairing, it is good to know if you are drinking a Chianti or a Chianti Classico. Both are food-friendly wines and match with similar foods, but Chianti Classico has more structure, tannins and acidity. Chianti tends to be more fresh and fruit-forward. Also, Classico usually contains a higher percentage of Sangiovese, which gives the wine its classic identity. Both types are, however, quite similar and the food pairing tips in this guide apply to both Chianti and Chianti Classico.
Chianti food pairing is not very complicated. This food-friendly wine goes well with many different types of dishes due to its balance between high acidity, tannins and red fruit. It even pairs well with tricky ingredients such as tomato thanks to the high acidity in the wine. Many Italian dishes include tomato, which makes Chianti an excellent pairing to several classic Italian dishes.
The list of foods to pair with Chianti is long and includes pizza, tomato pasta, charcuterie, veal, cheeses and stews.
In order to find the best food for your bottle of Chianti you need to pay attention to the following characteristics of the wine:
The best serving temperature for Chianti is 14-17°C (57-63°F).
Tips! Do you like Sangiovese, the main grape variety in Chianti? Make sure to read our guide Sangiovese Food Pairing.
Pasta is undoubtedly one of the best food pairings with Chianti. Pasta with tomato and/or meat will pair perfectly with this rustic wine. Try a Pasta al Pomodoro (tomato sauce) or Spaghetti Bolognese (meat sauce) with your bottle of Chianti. This pairing can’t go wrong! The Sangiovese grape variety is also known to be one of the best pairings with lasagna Bolognese.
Chianti pairs well with the following pasta dishes:
Chianti pizza pairing is a classic. In fact, it is one of the most popular food pairings in Italy. Pizza is one of the most beloved Italian dishes and Chianti is one of the most popular Italian wines. Why not combine them? The acidity and herbaceous profile of Chianti will pair perfectly with the tomato sauce and the oregano in the pizza. The rustic aromas of the wine are also a good match with meaty pizzas, like salami or sausage pizza.
Tips! Do you like spicy pizza? No need to look further. Chianti is an excellent pepperoni pizza wine pairing.
Did we tell you that Chianti Classico is a great food wine? It certainly is, and it has the ability to pair with both medium-intensity dishes and heavier meat dishes, such as roast lamb, T-bone steak or wild boar. However, the best meat pairing for Chianti is a meaty dish with tomato sauce. Meatballs with juicy tomato sauce and parmesan will pair wonderfully with a glass of Chianti.
Many traditional Italian meat dishes include tomato, which makes Chianti a safe choice for an Italian dinner. You can also pair Chianti with meaty stews from other cuisines. Why not try it together with a Hungarian Gulash?
Good meat pairings with Chianti include:
Tips! To balance the herbaceous profile of Chianti, try to season meat with dried herbs (oregano, thyme and rosemary).
Chicken is also a good pairing with Chianti. Choose a heavier chicken dish, like parmesan chicken. The breaded, cheesy chicken will pair well with the savory notes of Chianti. Try it and you will not be disappointed!
Are you looking for a red wine to your cheese platter? Are you a fan of hard cheeses like Parmigiano-Reggiano, Grana padano and Pecorino? Then Chianti Classico is a great choice for you. The salty and savory flavors of this type of cheese match the herbaceous yet fruity profile of Chianti. Even softer cheeses like Burrata and Mozzarella can pair well with this wine.
The best Chianti cheese pairings include:
Tips! Do you want to learn more about how to find the best wine for your favorite cheese? Check out our wine and cheese pairing guide!
Chianti is a great choice to serve together with a charcuterie board or other types of appetizers. Try it with bruschetta - an Italian toast with tomato, herbs, olive oil and garlic. A bruschetta and an antipasto platter will be perfect together with a bottle of Chianti.
Chianti snack pairing includes many different types of appetizers, especially:
Chianti is a dry medium-bodied red wine which also pairs well with flavorful vegetarian dishes, especially those with tomato sauce. Try it with Pasta al Pomodoro or hearty tomato-based stews. This wine is also a surprisingly good pairing with chickpeas. Chickpea soup or tortillas with roasted chickpeas is an interesting and delicious food pairing with Chianti.
Tips! You can learn more about vegetarian food and wine in our wine guide for vegetarian food.
Chianti is not the best choice for fish or shellfish. Just like most medium- or full-bodied red wines, the tannins in the wine will most likely overpower the delicate flavors of the fish. However, there are some exceptions to the rule. A rich tomato-based fish soup can pair well with Chianti. The acidity in the tomato will match the acidity and rustic profile of the wine. Chianti may also pair well with flavorful fish pasta.
As a general rule, Chianti or Chianti Classico do not pair well with sweet desserts. If you want to drink a Chianti wine with your chocolate it is better to choose Vin Santo del Chianti, a sweet wine from the same region.
Tips! In our wine guide Wine and Dessert Pairings you can read more about how to pair wine with sweet foods.
Enjoy your bottle of Chianti!