Finding the right wine to accentuate a plate of Swedish meatballs is not always an easy undertaking. The meatballs can be made from a wide variety of different meats, including beef, pork, veal and ground turkey. Some cooks add onions, breadcrumbs or spices, but some don’t. And they may be served in brown, white or even red gravy. Because of this chameleon-like quality, you can pair Swedish meatballs with a number of different wines, all designed to complement the food’s flavor; the key determining factor is how the meatballs are prepared and served.
Pinot grapes are a lighter, paler and subtler wine than many of its red cousins, often maturing in French oak barrels until it embodies an earthy, ligneous undertone. The reserved flavor boasts hints of cherry, raspberry or cranberry, which balances well with equally earthy-tasting meatballs made from game such as venison, bison or antelope. The wine has a medium acidity and should be served slightly cool — around 63 degrees.
White wine aficionados will find that the sweeter taste of Riesling is an ideal pairing for meatballs made from milder white meats like chicken, pork and turkey. The fruit aromas in this wine are often reminiscent of nectarine, pear, apricot and honey-crisp apple, with a very high acidity that should gradually fade 15 to 30 seconds after hitting the taste buds. The citrus tones of a Riesling also pair well with meatballs served in creamier white sauces.
Sangiovese is a burgundy-red Italian wine that can taste very different depending on its region of origin. Common flavors in Sangiovese often range from tart cherry to red plum to strawberries and figs, all of which are bold enough to hold their own against fatty, flavorful meatballs made from beef or veal. In addition, hints of tomato, oregano and roasted red pepper in some vintages are a superb accompaniment to meatballs served in a red sauce like marinara or Arrabiata.
Shiraz, also called Syrah, features bold, tart flavors like boysenberry, blackberry and blueberry that serve as a complement to most Swedish meatballs made from red meats. Some brands are infused with subtle inklings of allspice, cured meat, bacon fat and tobacco, making the pairing all the more rich and appropriate. The best wines are dark and full-bodied, with a purplish hue, medium acidity and peppery aftertaste.
Red Wine Sauce
Cooking with wine is one of the best ways to marry the flavors of drink and meat seamlessly. A merlot or Bordeaux red wine blend with low tannin levels is often inexpensive, easy to find, and harmonizes well with almost any type of Swedish meatballs. The best vintages are usually light to medium oak aged for about a year and have red fruit flavors and aromas such as black cherry, currant and plum.
References and ResourcesThe JB Bardot Archives: Perfect Wine Pairings for Swedish Meatballs
Wine Enthusiast: 6 Chef-Approved Meatball Recipes
Wine Folly: Guide to Sangiovese Wine
Total Wine and More: Wine Acidity and Crispness
ResourcesWined In: Reference Chart
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