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Go Bold and Red for an Osso Buco Wine Pairing

Osso Buco is a traditional Italian dish that consists of braised veal shanks served with a rich tomato and wine-based sauce. Osso Buco is typically served over risotto, but can also be found on its own or in combination with other ingredients.

In our Osso Buco Wine Pairing Guide, you’ll discover answers to some of the more common questions surrounding this dish, as well as what wines pair best and recipes that you can try at home.

Explore with us as we take you on an adventure filled food and wine experience that’s sure to please your palate and travel cravings.

Extraordinary Reds for an Osso Buco Wine Pairing

Osso Buco may be a simple, Italian comfort food, but it’s flavors are intense and luciously warm on the palate. You need a red wine to be equally bold in acidity and rich in tannins.

Be sure to decant your red wine for aerate as well as to remove sediment in the more mature wines. In general, young wines need decanting mainly for aeration and old wines mainly for separating the sediment.

Related: 9 Expert Picks for Best Wine Decanter with Stopper [+ How to Decant Wines]

California Red Wines Ideally Suited for an Osso Buco Wine Pairing

Meritage wines are an increasingly popular choice for wine drinkers. It is often praised as having delicious balance across its range of fruity sensations.

These robust, full-bodied blends have a complex flavor profile that ranges from cigars to rich blackberry and vanilla tones. Meritages typically age well over the years but can also be enjoyed in their younger days.

A Red Meritage (pronounced like the word “heritage”) is a blend of two or more hearty varieties of red wine. Using different grapes such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec and Petit Verdot creates an even richer taste with layers upon layers of complexity to explore in each sip. A single grape cannot comprise over 90% for it to be considered “Meritage,” according to the Meritage Alliance.

Meritage Top Picks

Zinfandel is a wine grape that has many different names and origins. It was first introduced to California during the Gold Rush in the 1850s. However,  it’s believed to have been around long before in Europe due to its genetic equivalence with other grapes from Croatia and Italy. 

Zinfandel can be found on 10% of vineyards across the Golden State making for an interesting variety among batches even when they come from one region!

Zinfandel is a spicy, fruity wine that can be described as sweet and smoky. With flavors of blueberry, cherry, plum, cranberry, licorice, black pepper, and boysenberry, it’s hard to resist this tasty favorite! The long lasting tobacco-like finish reminds you why Zinfandels are such an enjoyable red blend for any occasion.

osso buco wine pairing
A vineyard in the California Central Coast wine region.

Top Zinfandel Picks from California’s Central Coast

Best Italian Red Wines for an Osso Buco Wine Pairing

You want to pair your Osso Buco with a wine that will enhance the flavors in this rich dish. We recommend an Italian red, as it has just enough fruit and tannin to complement the savory meat and tomato sauce.

These four Italian red wines are your best bet for an Osso Buco Wine Pairing:

  • Barbaresco
  • Amarone
  • Brunello di Montalcino
  • Barolo

Barbaresco wine is a powerful red wine that originates from the Piedmont region of Italy. It’s aged for at least 26 months (nine in oak barrels), making it classified as Barbaresco, before being released to consumers. 

This bold and tannic wine pairs best with dishes like Osso Bucco or a beef stew; rich sauces such as tomato sauce and bolognese are also an excellent pairing to this classic Italian favorite!

Top Picks for a Barbesco Pairing with Osso Buco

osso buco wine pairing
Vineyards in the Piedmont region of Italy. Image by Beat Roth from Pixabay

The Daring Amarone: Worth the Wait and Expense

Amarone wines from Italy are full-bodied and robust, owing to a lengthy process that begins with grapes grown in the northeastern region of Verona. The soils and climate there produce an Amarone wine characterized by rich flavors, vibrant colors, concentrated tastes—and high levels of tannin and alcohol content that reaches 16%.

An Amarone wine is one of the more expensive red wines, but our Top Picks will make sure you pick out a bottle worth the money. 

osso buco wine pairing
Medieval hill-top town of Montalcino, Italy. Photo by Rob Allen on Unsplash

A Medieval Grape Well Suited for a Classic Osso Buco Wine Pairing 

Brunello di Montalcino is an Italian wine that is produced from a grape variety called Sangiovese.

This wine is considered to have one of Italy’s finest bouquets with notes ranging from blackberry fruit, coffee bean, licorice root, cedarwood spice and prune plum. The flavor can range anywhere from dry to sweet depending on how long it has been aged for before being bottled.

In the postwar era, winemakers began producing wine in accordance with regulations that ensure a bold flavor and subtle aromas of blackberry, black cherry, black raspberry, chocolate, leather and violet.

In order for this wine to qualify as Brunello di Montalcino DOCG status (which means its authenticity), the grapes must be grown in the Montalcino region. The wine must also follow a strict production process which is overseen by Italy’s regional government and must pass three different tasting panels before they can label it as Brunello di Montalcino DOCG status.

Like the Amarone, the Brunello di Montalcino is on the expensive side. Our Top Picks include:

The Bold & Beautiful Barolo

Barolo wine is a full-bodied bold red wine that is grown in the Piedmont region of Italy. It’s made from the Nebbiolo grape only, which produces strong acidity and high tannins.

Barolo wines are renowned for their fine aroma and full flavor. Rose flower, tar, and dried herbs are aromas frequently associated with Barolo wines.

DOCG regulations stipulate that wines must be aged for at least two years and have at least 13% alcohol, with five or more years of aging required to receive the Riserva labeling.

A bottle of Barolo definitely falls under the category of affordable Italian wines imported into the USA. At these prices, you can try a few!

Portugal’s Ancient Vines Perfect for Osso Buco Wine Pairing

The Bairrada region in Portugal is traditionally known for deep red wines with high tannin and notes of bell pepper and black currants.

Grape cultivation in Portugal’s Bairrada region dates back to mid-medieval times when the Moors were driven out of the peninsula in the 10th century.

The indigenous Baga grape is a robust and complex varietal that produces wines full of character. The wine can be described as having fruity, floral, acidic flavors but with well-balanced longevity.

This variety requires help from other varieties to produce the best quality reds though – commonly Cabernet Sauvignon or Tannat which provide relief for its acidity while also delivering rich aromas and colors of their own in turn enhancing the flavor profile of these grapes!

Give a Bairrada a try with this affordable bottle of Sidonio de Sousa 2016.

Covering one third of the country of Portugal, the Alentejo wine region is widely known and beloved in and outside of Portugal. 

“The reds, easy drinkers, rich and fruity, are the darlings of Lisbon cafés and restaurants, also to be found on wine lists the length of the country,” according to Wines of Portugal. “There are quaffing wines, but also fine wines, especially in the red department.”

We recommend the Herdade do Rocim 2018.

Portugal’s Wines!

Explore more of Portugal’s wine in our story about the 14 Wine Regions of Portugal.

Where to Eat the Best Osso Buco [and drink wine]

Start by looking for a great Italian restaurant in your own area. Most full-service Italian restaurants will carry the classic dish. As a northern Italian comfort food, Osso Buco tends to be a seasonal dish that is most often cooked during fall and winter months. 

If you’d like to sample Osso Buco on your travels, you can find a delicious Osso Buco served at some of the best Italian restaurants in the USA as well as in its country of origin. 

Sadly, many wonderful Italian restaurants did not survive the economic hardships of the pandemic, but we have rounded up a wonderful selection of restaurants that are doing their best to thrive in a new era. 

Let’s start our journey in Italy, where Osso Buco originated, and to help us navigate the restaurant selections, we turned first to one of our favorite Italian sightseeing guides – Massi the Driver

Siena’s Trattoria Papei: Guardians of Tuscan Culinary Heritage

Massi and his American wife, Deb, combined their passions and expertise into one of the most charming travel agencies in Tuscany – Italy Unfiltered. You won’t miss a thing when this lovely couple shows you why they love their little part of Italy so much.

For a delicious Osso Buco, Massi suggests his favorite restaurant in his hometown of Siena, Italy. Trattoria Papei attracts tourists and locals alike, says Massi. “The staff is friendly and they speak English if needed and are engaged with their customers in an easy going atmosphere.”

Massi the Driver’s Osso Buco Wine Pairing Picks

Massi has two favorite red wine pairings for a classic Osso Buco: Brunello di Montalcino and Chianti Classico Gran Selezione.

Brunello di Montalcino is a rich and complex red wine with an interesting history, dating back to the 14th century.

Post WWII, Brunello di Montalcino was considered Italy’s rarest wine. Less than 40 years later it was granted DOCG status and became one of Italy’s most prestigious wines with flavors as bold as its history. Few wines command this level of respect.

The grapes for this varietal are grown in a region near Siena called Montalcino; they’re known as Sangiovese Grosso or Prugnolo Gentile (gentle blackthorn berry). This type of grape is characterized by its thick skin that creates bolder fruit flavors with higher tannin levels and high acidity. As the wine ages, the tannins become more refined. 

Brunello di Montalcino selections worth exploring:

Going to the Top of the Chianti Classico Pyramid

In 2014, Chianti Classico Gran Selezione emerged as the newest category of Chianti Classico.

To help you understand the distinctions in Chianti Classico wines, envision a quality pyramid. At the top sits Gran Selezione and under it is Chianti Classico Reserva. At the bottom – which is still of exceptional quality – is Chianti Classico Annata.

Annata1212Fruity, well-balanced, easy to drink
Reserva12.524Fruity. Oak must support the wine’s structure, consistency & persistence.
Gran Selezione1330Fruity, spicy, enveloping, where elegance, fineness and balance of the tannins and acidity maintain the characteristics of fusion and of wholeness.
Information from the Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science at UC Davis

This video by Chianti Classico will help you better understand the finer points of distinction. The video is in Italian but has English subtitles.

Top Selections for Chianti Classico Gran Selezione:

Where to Go on Your USA Osso Buco Wine Pairing Road Trip

If you want great Italian food, start your trip on the East Coast, with stops in New York City, Boston, and Washington, D.C.

Famous Osso Buco on NYC’s Restaurant Row

Becco may be known for its Pasta Tasting Menu, but it wouldn’t be a Lidia Bastianich restaurant without her signature Osso Buco! 

The Osso Buco alla Becco is served with farro risotto tossed with zucchini and Goldbar squash.

Boston’s Quintessential Italian Restaurant: Mamma Maria

A commitment to the guiding principle of Italian cuisine, a reliance on local markets, and an exclusive focus on native foods are what make Mamma Maria’s dishes so delicious. They use the seasons as a guide for their menu.

In the fall and winter the menu reflects Northern Italian food such as Osso Buco made from pastured-raised veal; while during summer they showcase Southern recipes that highlight fresh seafood from New England shores such as Martha’s Vineyard Tuna Tartare with Maine radishes and cucumbers.

In Mamma Maria’s 19th century row house overlooking Boston, you can dine indoors or outdoors, but wherever you set, comfort envelopes you and the refined but friendly service elevates you.

Northern and Southern Italian Cuisine on Dupont Circle

Chef Rosemeri Espinoza’s love for Italian cuisine began when she started assisting chefs preparing Italian food. Now, as an independent chef with her own restaurants in Washington DC, Chef Espinoza spends every morning crafting homemade pasta and sauces with the help of her cooking staff.

Sadly, because of the long pandemic, the original location in Alexandria, Virginia, had to be closed.

Rosemarino D’Italia’s recommends a Montepulciana from Italy’s Casalbordino for their Osso Buco wine pairing.

An Idyllic Setting for an Osso Buco Wine Pairing in Orlando

We end our East Coast Osso Buco Wine Pairing exploration with a feast for the eyes as well as your taste buds!

From its beginnings as a neighborhood trattoria in Milan in the 1920s, BiCE restaurants have been known for extraordinary hospitality and friendly service that makes you feel at home. 

BiCE’s location in Orlando, Florida, is set up to make you feel like you’re on the Italian Riviera. The restaurant sits right at a beautiful body of water and everything from the buildings’ colors, down to their fresh food options will have your taste buds feeling transported!

osso buco wine pairing
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Classic Osso Buco Recipes

Traditional Ways to Cook Osso Bucco

People often ask, “What’s the secret to a wonderful recipe?” The answer: Love. 

Their love for one another and Italian food is the secret behind the successful food blog Inside the Rustic Kitchen.

Emily and Nathan of Edinburgh, Scotland, have been together since they were 17 years old. Five of those years included immersing themselves into everything Italian!

“We spent 5 years living in Italy soaking up the culture, language, beautiful landscapes and best of all the incredible food!” they write on their blog. “Within the first year of living there, we started this food blog so we could share everything we learned with you!”

Beautiful step-by-step photographs and plenty of tips and tricks accompany Emily and Nathan’s classic Osso Buco recipe

Try these other classic Osso Buco recipes:

If Veal Isn’t Your Thing, Try a Beef Osso Buco Recipe 

This Beef Osso Buco recipe from the Montana Beef Council keeps it traditional with a Gremolata sauce and Milanese Risotto. Instead of veal, Beef Cross Cut Shanks are used.

Stemple Creek Ranch is a family business that has been owned by the Poncia family for four generations. Nestled in Northern California near Tomales, it’s home to superior quality grass fed and finished meats raised on this land. 

With Stemple Creek Ranch, you can have your beef shanks shipped directly to you and then try their delicious take on an Osso Buco.

In our large household, we have several Dutch Ovens, including a really large Le Creuset enameled cast iron in an oval shape like this beautiful one in blue.

Slow Cooker Osso Buco Recipe 

Who better to present a melt-in-your-mouth slow cooker recipe than a family meat business whose founders are in the Wisconsin Meat Hall of Fame! 

Over 50 years ago, John Leahy was a grocery store butcher who wanted to start his own business dedicated to providing an even better quality of meat, service, and value to customers. Rita Leahy, who was a school teacher at the time, supported her husband’s dream by taking care of the bookwork in addition to other tasks such as running deliveries!

Their family still runs Lake Geneva Country Meats in Wisconsin. Enjoy their special Slow Cooker Osso Buco recipe, which they suggest pairing with a Syrah or a Grenache.

Best Wine for Cooking Osso Buco

Osso Buco purists will tell you that a dry white wine is an important ingredient to cooking Osso Buco. White wine adds a fresh flavor to the rich, hearty qualities of the veal shank and bone marrow.

The Villa Sparina Gavi di Gavi 2020 is a delightful, refreshing white wine with an elegant bouquet of dried pineapple and peach that will be perfect for your Osso Buco recipe. Sip on the leftovers as you wait on the Osso Buco to finish cooking!

A Sauvignon Blanc is also a perfect cooking accompaniment. Use it in the recipe and enjoy the leftovers!

The Giesen Sauvignon Blanc (2020) from New Zealand is a blend of fruit flavors. The passion fruit, pineapple, peach and Key lime are combined to create this deliciously crisp wine that will make your mouth water!

Final Thoughts on an Osso Buco Wine Pairing

We love how many different places our stories take us! We hope you enjoy them just as much. If the Osso Buco Wine Pairing Guide inspired you to try cooking it yourself or if you ordered it in an Italian restaurant, please let us know!

We’ll leave you with an excerpt of poetic verse written by the famous American Poet Billy Collins. 

He served as the New York State Poet Laureate from 2004 to 2006, U.S. Poet Laureate from 2001- 2003, an honorary Literary Lion at The New York Public Library in 1995 for his contributions to American poetry and was once named by TIME magazine one of America’s “25 Most Influential People.”

We found the Osso Buco poem thanks to Luisa Cywinski’s Poetry in the Kitchen article in which she shares an Osso Buco recipe by Julia Child. 

“Osso Buco”
I love the sound of the bone against the plate
and the fortress-like look of it
lying before me in a moat of risotto,
the meat soft as the leg of an angel
who has lived a purely airborne existence.
And best of all, the secret marrow,
the invaded privacy of the animal
prised out with a knife and swallowed down
with cold, exhilarating wine.
I am swaying now in the hour after dinner,
a citizen tilted back on his chair,
a creature with a full stomach.

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