Pairing Italian Wine With Sandwiches

When many people imagine pairing wine with various kinds of food, they tend to think of complete meals. For example, a good glass of red alongside a meal of steak or venison, or a light glass of white to go alongside a pasta dish. So when you mention that wine can be paired with all sorts of foods beyond what many consider to be the standards it can be easy for people to dismiss the notion and fail to explore it as fully as they might.

Of all the foods, sandwiches are perhaps the hardest to consider as an ideal pairing with a good glass of wine, but that is simply not the case. In fact, with the right sandwich a glass of wine can release textures that you didn’t even realise existed and you may find that even the lightest of snacks is capable of complementing a good glass of wine.

Of course, it’s not as simple as figuring out which wines go alongside bread. The sandwich filling and the quality of its contents plays just as big a role. Feeling confused? Here we offer our very own guide to pairing wine with sandwiches, so you can experiment for yourself.

Be Wary Of The Sweet

Not all sandwiches work well with a glass of wine. In fact, those that veer towards the sweeter side of the spectrum often have the ability to overpower even more complex examples. A good example of this is jam. That filling may be made from some of the finest fruits in the world, but these have been treated to allow for maximum sweetness and flavour. It is very hard to find a wine that suits this sort of sandwich, with dessert wines tending to clash with the bread, while whites and even most reds being likely to be overpowered by the jam in the sandwich.

So the general recommendation is to avoid trying to pair wine with sandwiches that have exceptionally sweet fillings. Of course, that doesn’t mean you should avoid doing it with sandwiches that have sweet fillings that are tempered by savoury flavours. Nutella is an excellent example of a sweetish sandwich filling that can complement a good wine. Try it with a Madeira or another fortified wine that is commonly served as an aperitif and you will see exactly what we mean.

The Many Other Fillings

Now that we have that out of the way, we can start considering the many other fillings that can be used in a sandwich. Practically anything can make for a good bread-based meal, and in many cases the more traditional wine pairings that you are already familiar with can still be effective.

A fish sandwich, for example, will often go down beautifully with a decent glass of Italian white wine, while sandwiches made using richer meats, such as beef or pork, will usually taste just as good as if you had eaten the filling alone alongside a nice bottle of red.

In many ways it comes down to getting over the feeling that wine and sandwiches shouldn’t really mix, which is an antiquated notion that prevents people from fully exploring the ways that Italian wine can be used to complement the food they eat.

Getting Past The Preconceptions

As we have already mentioned, many people have a preconceived notion that wine and sandwiches simple should not be put together. This is often rooted in the idea that wine is something of a formal drink that should be reserved for ‘proper’ meals, rather than a drink that can be consumed alongside lighter snacks.

Hanging onto this idea will only prevent you from discovering just how well many sandwiches complement good glasses of wine, and vice-versa. This is often more an issue in international territories, where wine is traditional consumed alongside larger meals. If you have come to understand the culture of the aperitif, you will quickly be able to see that practically anything can be paired with wine, even sandwiches. It all comes down to making the right choices that will suit the meal you are currently sitting down to, rather than approaching the notion with prior ideas of when it is ‘proper’ to enjoy a nice glass of wine.

Part of the problem may be that many people tend to associate sandwiches with a hasty lunch. Instead of spending hours working over the stove the create a culinary delight, the sandwich is something that you can knock together in five minutes, which means for many it doesn’t seem to fit the lofty perch that wine accompaniments tend to reside on. Again, this is an antiquated notion and with a little experimentation you will soon find that there are many wines that can complement even the most basic of sandwiches.

Picking The Right Wine

So how do you pick a wine to go with your sandwich? A lot of people make the mistake of trying to pick a vintage that goes well with bread. After all, a sandwich consists primarily of bread so it only stands to reason that any wine that accompanies it should go well with that particular food.

However, your aim should be to select a wine that goes well with the most dominant flavour of the sandwich. This is rarely going to be the bread and will more likely be the main filling of the sandwich instead.

This can get a little more complicated if you are eating a complex sandwich that includes many flavours that meld together to create a fairly unique whole. In such cases, experimentation is needed to find the right wine for the meal. Start by selecting vintages that go well with the flavours in complex sandwiches and work your way from there, considering how the subtle nuances of each wine complements the combined flavour of the sandwich.

It may take a little time to find the right one, but that’s all part of the fun of being a wine enthusiast. That moment of revelation when you discover a new pairing cannot be matched by any feeling in the world.


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