If it were up to me, I would ban, delete and otherwise eliminate the phrase “spaghetti wine” from the English language.
I’d also extract it from the Italian lexicon and any other tongue prone to uttering it.
Reason: It is not a complimentary term. Just as the “spaghetti western” was known as a lesser genre of motion picture, and thus frowned upon by cinematic snobs, the “spaghetti wine” was thought of as a bland, simple wine worthy of no dish nobler than spaghetti and meatballs.
Well, it’s my studied (and humble) opinion that those who look down upon spaghetti and meatballs are missing out on one of humankind’s finest comfort foods. Furthermore, there are plenty of anything-but-simple wines that would pair beautifully with such a main course.
Look at it this way: You didn’t get John Wayne in a “spaghetti western,” but you did get Clint Eastwood.
Likewise, while you may want to save that pricy bottle of Brunello di Montalcino for a more important occasion, there’s nothing wrong with cracking open a bottle of Montepulciano d’Abruzzo or Chianti Classico or a spicy Barbera.
Other good pairing partners from other places: a Grenache/Syrah/Mourvedre blend from France’s Rhone region, a spicy and fruity Shiraz from Australia, or a (red) Zinfandel from California. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with a simple bottle of Chianti, either.
The dominant flavor of a traditional spaghetti-and-meatballs dinner will be tomato sauce, so that’s the ingredient on which to focus when selecting the wine to serve. Tomato sauce, with its tanginess and herbaceous quality, needs a wine with a solid acidic backbone and a nice spice kick.
In the era of celebrity chefs and the Food Network, simple pleasures such as spaghetti-and-meatballs may lack cache, but they still can make wonderful meals.
In my opinion (still humble), except on very special occasions, we’d be much better served by choosing comfort over cache.