Best Wines to Use in Risotto (and Which to Avoid)

Take your risotto to the next level by mixing in the perfect wine.

Published March 5, 2023
Seafood Risotto and white wine

Ah risotto. It's one of those versatile dishes that fits perfectly in any season and plays well with lots of flavors. Which leads us to wine. It's an essential ingredient in risotto, and it can do a lot for the flavor and aroma of the dish. The best wine for risotto is a dry white wine, but within that, there's a lot of room to play. Take a look at some wines that will make your risotto delicious.

Overall Best Wine for Risotto

When making risotto, you can't go wrong with unoaked chardonnay or sauvignon blanc. The grassy, herbal flavors of a sauvignon blanc play well with fresh herbs, crisp-tender veggies, and of course, those creamy, plump grains of starchy Arborio rice that make risotto such a culinary delight.

When using unoaked chardonnay, the varietal's herbaceous flavors (which are often hidden by the vanilla and toast notes in an oaked wine) step to the fore and complement your dish.

You can use these two wines in any flavor of risotto, but they're especially pleasing with a spring risotto containing tender spring veggies like peas, spring onions, or garlic scapes.

Honorable Mentions

Other whites that work well for risotto include:

  • Pinot grigio/pinot gris for risotto with summer squash and fish or shellfish
  • A lightly oaked chardonnay or pinot noir for mushroom risotto
  • A crisp Chablis for a seafood risotto

Wines to Avoid (or Use With Caution) in Risotto

The goal in choosing a wine for risotto is to consider complementary flavors. You want a light-flavored wine that won't overpower the ingredients in your rice. Avoid:

  • Super-heavy reds like cabernet sauvignon
  • Spicy wines like syrah or zinfandel
  • Sweet reds or whites
  • Fortified wines like sherry or port
  • Heavily oaked wines like many California chardonnays
  • Any wine labeled cooking wine (it contains salt and is usually low-quality wine)
  • Any wine you wouldn't sip from a glass
  • Expensive wine

Which Wine to Drink With Risotto

Since you won't be using your entire bottle in your risotto unless you're making a bunch, you can always drink the wine that you used to make the risotto when you serve it - either from the same bottle or a different version of that varietal. Additionally:

  • Pinot noir is delightful with a wild mushroom risotto as it complements the earthy flavors beautifully.
  • If you've added some smokier meat ingredients to your risotto like pancetta, an oaked chardonnay will complement the flavors perfectly.
  • If it's a light, herby risotto, then consider vermentino or even a fizzy pet-nat.
  • For a seafood risotto, sip on an albariño.
  • For a spicy risotto, have a glass of torrontés or a dry German riesling.

Replacing Wine in Risotto

Wine adds acidity in risotto. If you're not into cooking with wine, you can always use lemon juice or wine vinegar diluted with an equal amount of water or stock.

Cook & Drink With What You Love

These are all just guidelines. In the end, play around and discover what you love. You may find that you love nothing better than a dry marsala or an aromatic viognier in your favorite dish. But whatever you do, don't skip the wine (or nonalcoholic wine replacement) when you're making risotto, because it adds acidity and balance to the dish.

Best Wines to Use in Risotto (and Which to Avoid)