Bolognese: white or red wine?

Bolognese is one of Britain’s favourite homemade, hearty meals. Featuring on family dinner tables daily, it is a true homely meal. However, controversy surrounds this popular Italian dish questioning, should we use red or white wine?

Bolognese sauce, also known as ragú alla Bolognese is an Italian meat based sauce originating from Bologna, Italy. Common ingredients include: soffritto of onion, celery, carrot, different types of minced or finely chopped beef and small amounts of fatty pork.

Red or white?

Typically, red wine and a small amount of tomato concentrate (or tomatoes) is added to the dish, however traditionally white wine should be used rather than red. It has been known that milk adds to the flavour of the dish and creates a creamy sauce rather than a tomato based sauce. Recently, it was suggested by Mary Berry that white wine should be used when making a Bolognese. Causing uproar in the nation, is Mary right to use white rather than red?

The right way

Ragú alla Bolognese is a classic staple of regional cooking in Emilia-Romagna, in 1982 the recipe was set in stone by the Accademia Italiana della Cucina (The Italian Academy of Cuisine). The official recipe on the website states “1/2 cup dry white wine” – official confirmation of which wine to use. Alongside the academy Italian chefs, Antonio Carluccio and Marcella Hazan, also agree white is the better option to use. Marcella Hazan’s recipe uses white wine, in addition to this the recipe suggests using milk rather than tomato based ingredients.

It has been suggested that it is more appropriate to use red wine if Bolognese is being made to eat over a few days, the red wine has time to be fully absorbed by the other ingredients. However, on the other hand if Bolognese is being made for the following evening, white wine is the better option to use as it will help the meat to melt.

Which wine?

If like many you prefer to stick to your traditions and use red wine, there are some suggestions of what you should be using. To most it would make sense to use an Italian wine for an Italian dish, therefore Chianti is a popular choice. It has a full range of flavours which add depth to any red sauce, it ranges from cherry to tobacco and often mushroom.

A popular choice is Merlot, as an accessible wine that can be bought from most local supermarkets, it has roasted flavours and aromas which makes it an interesting ingredient in spaghetti sauce.

If you fancy making your own homemade Bolognese sauce, why not browse our range of red wines from the Italian section of our website.


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