What Are The Best Wines To Pair With Pesto?

Man opening wine bottle

Short answer
When it comes to pairing wine with pesto, we favour dry, crisp and acidic white wines such as Pinot Grigio, Vermentino or Sauvignon Blanc. If you prefer red wine, then we’d recommend something light-bodied like Beaujolais, Dolcetto or Pinot Noir.

Long answer
We're not going to pretend to be the world's biggest wine buffs, although we have watched Sideways an unnecessary number of times and been too embarrassed to order Merlot ever since.

White wine

Our natural go-to is a dry, crisp white wine. That's rather fortuitous as that's exactly what sommeliers recommend where pairing wine with a basil pesto-pasta dish. Whatever wine you choose, it needs to be able to stand up to the strong flavour and oiliness of the sauce. Here's a few of our favourites:

Pinot Grigio
The light, refreshing character of Pinot with its subtle fruit flavours makes it the wine we reach for more often than any other. It offers a wonderful contrast to the boldness of basil pesto.

Vermentino
This white wine is crisp and refreshing with citrus and floral notes. It's an excellent match for pesto due to its acidity, mineral finish and ability to balance the sauce's flavours.

Sauvignon Blanc
The herbal, citrusy notes of this French classic, combined with good acidity and a crisp finish makes it a cracking pairing for pesto.

Red wine

When it comes to making a ragù or Bolognese, it must be red wine all the way. Full-bodied wines like Malbec, Chianti and Shiraz complement the hearty sauce brilliantly. However, that's completely the opposite to what we look for when pairing red wine with pesto. Instead, you need to be looking for light-bodied wines with low tannin levels to avoid overpowering the sauce. Here's a few of our favourites:

Beaujolais
This light-bodied, delicate wine with bright acidity and fruity character works wonderfully with the herbal and nutty flavours of pesto. In the winter months we recommend hunting down a bottle of Beaujolais Nouveau. This young, red wine is supposed to be drunk as soon as possible after its release on the third Thursday of November each year.

Dolcetto
Hailing from Piedmont, this is a versatile, fruity red wine that enhances the flavours of pesto without overwhelming them. Just like Beaujolais Nouveau, Dolcetto is best drunk soon after its release as it is not intended for long-term aging.

Pinot Noir
With moderate acidity and hints of cherries and raspberries, Pinot Noir offers bright fruit flavours and a light mouthfeel that can complement the herbal and garlicky notes of the pesto.

Rosé wine

If rosé wine is more your thing, the safest bet is to stick to Italian grape varieties such as Sangiovese or Montepulciano which offer a refreshing and balanced contrast to the richness of the sauce. Failing that, you can do a lot worse than opt for the crisp, dry rosés from Provence or the Rhône Valley which boast bright, vibrant characters and delicate herbal notes.