What to match with a carbonara? Champers perhaps…

LAST WEEK MY fellow blogger Simoney Girard taught the readers of Ella Mag how to cook a generally kick-ass spaghetti carbonara. I’ve not tried it, but judging by the confections she’s brought into the office over the years I’d say chances are good it is more heartwarming than meeting your first-born child for the first time.

Not that I’ve ever had kids or anything like that (that would require having a girlfriend, of course).

Anyway. Back to this carbonara.

I’m told this dish is nothing like the creamy carbonaras we know in the UK. No. This was something more genuine, a traditional version that can be traced back to Napoli, Italy. And before you tell me there is no way a woman named Simoney could possibly be from Napoli, let me tell you you’re right – she got the recipe from her Neapolitan friend.

So there. Except for this recipe mushrooms and pine nuts have been added to suit Ms Girard’s preference. So perhaps it’s not as traditional as I have claimed. But let’s not let that detail get in the way of greatness.

Containing salty pancetta, onion, egg, a hint of garlic, some parsley and either parmesan or pecorino, there are some great flavours working here. This isn’t a deep, brooding, beefy tomato sauce, but it’s rich in that it has the pancetta and the cheese and is light because no single element overpowers it. Therefore, this doesn’t need a wine whose sole purpose is to blast through strong flavours with tannins that could knock out a buzzard.

What comes to mind here is a white or red wine that travels down the middle of the road, having enough heft to take on the pancetta and cheese as well as some decent acidity to knock through the flavours, but not too much.


Believe it or not, the acidity and heft of Champagne (or another decent sparkling wine, for that matter) could make a great match for this meal. With pancetta, garlic and cheese all in here, you need something that will cut through those flavours and not fall apart in the process.

Oudinot Vintage 2004 Champagne (Marks & Spencer, £29)
I recently cracked one of these for a friend’s birthday and found it to have great structure. Yeasty, brioche nose, apples and citrus aromas and flavours. This is rich and biscuity, making it a great bargain for vintage bubbly and maybe even a good match for carbonara.

Oudinot Rosé Medium Dry non-vintage (Marks & Spencer, £25)
Why not go for a rosé? This will have brioche, peaches and cream but in a slightly sweeter style than the vintage above.

If you want Champagne on a budget, consider Waitrose Brut Non-vintage Champagne, (Waitrose, £18.99)

White wines

I could recommend some Italian whites, such as a dry, acidic pinot grigio, but I’m not going to. Why? Because I think a something else would work well here. You want something with acidity to stand up to all the ingredients and a good riesling will do that.

Petaluma Riesling 2011 Hanlin Hill, Clare Valley, Australia (Waitrose, £10.44)
Dry, acidic and having notes of citrus and lime, this is a solid riesling with enough fruit character to be enjoyable and the backbone to handle a carbonara.

Red wines

Château de Chénas 2009 Moulin-à-Vent, Beaujolais, Burgundy, France (Waitrose, £10.44)
The great thing about Beaujolais is that it isn’t a heavy wine, so when you need to pair a red with something more delicate like fish it can make a great choice. Fruity and acidic, this can stand up to the sweet and salty flavours of black cod. With Beaujolais you want to choose something from at least the ‘villages’ level, but preferably from the ‘cru’ level like Moulin-a-Vent.

This blog also appeared in Ella Mag as part of my wine of the week series.

Photo: Gameanna

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