Pairing Pizza And Wine

Roberto Viernes
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Wednesday - July 21, 2010
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Bright, lemony flavor

Tired after a long days work? Having some friends over but you don’t want to cook? I know the feeling. Should I get take out? Chinese, plate lunch or pizza? Pizza sounds great, but I want to have some wine with it. Beer is great, but it isn’t wine. So what wine do I pair with pizza?

Pizza is a category, like sushi. But there a lots of different types of pizza. You can top pizza with almost anything, literally. Pepperoni and anchovies are pretty demure when you think about it. You can put duck or prosciutto on it. Pineapples and ham are pretty common. Pastrami and mustard work well on pizza dough. Even pipikaula and garlic go great together on a baked pie, unexpectedly.

One thing everyone expects on pizza is cheese. But there are so many different types of cheese. Mozzarella (the real one for me, please), Fontina, Cheddar, Jack, Havarti, Comte - the list goes on into infinity. As does the different veggies and/or fruit you want to throw on top.

Now the tomato sauce is something that can’t go missing on a pizza. But this too has its own variations. Do you like is sweet or spicy? Do you like lots of garlic in the sauce or perhaps you like to add different herbs. Maybe butter is your thing or even a bit of ranch dressing instead.

So when someone recommends wine with pizza, I have to wonder. What pizza are they talking about? Some automatically think Italian wine works best because it originates in Italy. They certainly can, but you would be selling yourself short. I would not limit myself to just one country’s wines. In addition there are many wine drinkers who do not enjoy Italian wine. I know, it sounds farfetched, but it’s true.

I would look at each pizza as any other dish and try to figure out the most dominant flavor of the pie. Whether it is the sauce or one of the other toppings, each item will dictate its own pairing. Take a pepperoni pizza for instance. The main flavor is the lightly spicy and oily sausage followed by the cheese and the tomato sauce. For this I would actually recommend a white wine to cut through the spicy oiliness of the pizza and marry with the acidity of the tomato sauce. I would pick a Pinot Grigio like Bottega Vinaia ($13) with its lightly citrusy character, light body and gulpability. Now for a pizza topped with anchovies and herbed olives, the major flavor would be the anchovies: salty and fishy. You need something with a zesty kick like Sauvignon Blanc of even Riesling. If you want to stay Italian, a bottle of Feudi di San Gregorio Greco di Tufo ($19) would be great with its bright acidity and lemony flavors. I would even try a Sancerre from the Loire Valley, like the 2008 Reverdy Sancerre ($20) that would act like a squeeze of lemon on top of the briny, oceanic flavors of the anchovy. Now a meat lover’s pizza with bacon, ham and sausage would require a thicker wine, and for this I would definitely go red. A bottle of 2008 Bitch Grenache from Australia would have just enough weight and sweet red fruit to handle such a thick pizza. Is there a Burgundy lover’s pizza? Maybe if you put duck, Comte cheese and butter on it, it might go well with a decadent Chambolle Musigny.

Don’t settle for boring. Try different tastes with different wines. It’s the only way to learn more about food and wine pairing. On top (so to speak) of that, it is a ton of fun.

Pizza party anyone?


Roberto Viernes is a master sommelier. E-mail .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
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