Ah…savory, creamy pesto. The only thing that can make this decadent dip more delicious is a wine pairing. There’s just one issue: what’s the best pesto wine pairing?
We’re firm believers that the best pairing is one that suits your personal tastes. That said, pesto is a tricky food item to pair due to its powerful flavor and medley of different ingredients. If you’re not careful, you may choose wines that make your pesto taste unnaturally bitter or sour!
Whether you’re using pesto as a spread for charcuterie or a sauce for salad, we have your back. Our list will give you the most compatible wines for pesto to ensure you’re enhancing flavors, not muting them!
What is in Pesto?
Pesto originates from Italy and is commonly seen in dips, pizzas, and salads. The dish’s full name is pesto alla genovese, referring to the recipe’s origin in Genoa.
With a brilliant green hue and distinctive aroma, classic pesto is a staple of restaurants around the world. The classic pesto recipe is herbal and savory, usually composed of the following ingredients:
- Pine nuts
- Olive oil
- White cheese
If you don’t like the flavor of classic pesto, red pesto varieties are just as delicious. These recipes are similar to classic pesto, but swap in different vegetables and herbs.
The most popular red pesto recipes are usually a variation of the following ingredients:
- Sundried tomatoes
- Basil or parsley
- Pine nuts, pumpkin seeds, or sunflower seeds
- Olive oil
- White cheese
If you’re allergic to nuts or have a dairy intolerance, there are still pesto options available to you! We recommend making your own by mixing up the following ingredients to achieve a creamy, herbal result.
- Basil or parsley
- Sundried tomatoes
- Olive oil
- Nutritional yeast
- Lemon juice, red pepper, or black pepper
Nutritional yeast is a popular cheese substitute used in vegetarian and vegan recipes, creating a cheesy flavor without actual cheese.
This ingredient is safe to eat for people with lactose intolerance since it has no animal fat or dairy. It’s also a tasty option for people with corn or soy allergies!
The Best Pesto Wine Pairings
The best wine with pesto means choosing a vintage that complements, not contradicts, your food. You want to enhance the savory, herbal, or grassy flavors of the pesto with wine notes that lean toward the opposite end of the spectrum.
For example, earthy or grassy pesto tends to fare well with bright, zesty white wines. The high acidity of white wines will make your pesto taste even stronger.
On the other hand, savory red pesto or allergen-free pesto made with nutritional yeast is best suited to red wines with fruit-forward natures. The more contrast, the better!
Below are our top pesto wine pairing recommendations.
Red Wine Pairings With Pesto
Pesto is often not suited to robust, smoky wines. Since pesto already has a strong flavor, red wines with light and bright flavors provide better contrast for the dish.
Pinot Noir: A Fruity, Light-Bodied Wine With Red Fruit Notes
Pinot noir regularly tops many of our wine pairing lists and for good reason. This highly balanced French red wine is incredibly friendly to many dishes, rarely leaning too hard in any part of the flavor spectrum.
We Recommend Pinot Noir For: All Kinds of Pesto
Pinot noir pairs well with red pesto thanks to the wine’s red fruit notes, a pitch-perfect contrast to salty and garlicky sundried tomatoes. The creamy and slightly salty pesto will make the pinot noir’s natural raspberry and strawberry flavors pop out.
We also recommend pinot noir with classic pesto due to the recipe’s lean toward savory elements like cheese and nuts. If you need allergen-free pesto, try a recipe with sundried tomatoes and a little nutritional yeast for a pizza-like flavor.
Barbera: A Tangy And Dry Wine That’s Never Too Overpowering
Another ideal red wine for pesto is the lesser-known Barbera. Hailing from Italy, these red wine grapes are low in tannins and high in refreshing acidity.
You’ll never have to worry about overpowering your pesto with this wine pairing (though we recommend choosing a bottle that’s unoaked).
We Recommend Barbera For: Red Pesto or Allergen-Free Pesto With Yeast
Like most red wines, tomato-based dishes reign supreme, so choose red pesto. The dominant flavor notes in barbera – think dark cherries and raspberries – complement the juiciness of tomatoes while contrasting garlic or pepper.
If you need an allergen-free pesto, use tomatoes as your base with a hearty helping of red pepper, black pepper, garlic, or herbs. Your barbera will provide a juicy high note after every bite.
White Wine Pairings With Pesto
White wine is the most common sight next to a plate of bright green pesto. Unsurprisingly, this go-to pairing is due to white wine’s propensity for high acidity, light bodies, and saline finishes.
Vermentino: A Nutty And Tangy Wine With a Mineral Finish
The classic white wine to pair with pesto is Vermentino, an indigenous white wine grape that’s been cultivated since the 14th century. You can find this varietal made in still and sparkling varieties, both of which we recommend!
We Recommend Vermentino For: Classic Pesto or Allergen-Free Pesto With No Yeast
This white wine is fascinating in its blend of zesty lemon notes, faintly nutty aftertastes, and mineral-like finish. Some drinkers describe this wine as reminding them of salt spray from the ocean.
A complex wine deserves an equally complex dish. The tanginess of Vermentino will add some contrast to classic pesto’s garlic and olive oil base, while not being so bitter it pushes down the nuttiness.
If you’re creating an allergen-free pesto, skip the yeast to reduce the cheesy flavor. Focus on herbs and oil so your Vermentino’s citrus and nutty notes shine through.
Albariño: A Fresh, Acidic Wine That’s Ideal For Classic Pesto
If you want an acidic wine that leans away from more citrus notes in favor of stone fruit, albariño is your calling card. While this Spanish white wine has subtle hints of lemon and grapefruit, its dominant flavors lean toward nectarine, melons, and a nutty finish.
We Recommend Albariño For: Classic Pesto or Herb-Focused Allergen-Free Pesto
Albariño responds well to herbs, so we can’t recommend classic pesto enough. The balance of basil and olive oil will contrast the wine’s subtle stone fruit and nuttiness.
Allergen-free pesto recipes should steer clear of sundried tomatoes in favor of an herbal finish, so add plenty of basil and parsley. Consider sprinkling in diced chives if you want a touch more acidity.
Sauvignon Blanc: A Tart, Smooth Wine For Classic Pesto
With mouthwatering acidity and puckering flavor notes like lemongrass and grapefruit, this French classic is a popular sight next to a dish of pesto. If you like your wine chilled, put sauvignon blanc at the top of your list.
We Recommend Sauvignon Blanc For: Classic Pesto
The classic pesto recipe is fundamentally compatible with highly acidic and light-bodied white wines. The citrus notes and clean finish will keep your pesto tasting savory from beginning to end.
Chablis: A Dry And Somewhat Floral Wine For Classic Pesto
If you want to try a wine that’s less zesty and more floral, we highly recommend chablis for pesto. This aromatic French white wine gives you a bouquet of flowers matched only by a dry and stonefruit character.
We Recommend Chablis For: Classic Pesto or Allergen-Free Pesto Without Yeast
The dry and mineral nature of chablis stands out best with classic pesto’s creamy olive and herb base.
If you need an allergen-free pesto, skip the yeast and load up on the herbs.