The Inside Story from Italian Wine Merchants

Wine and Pizza

Posted on | July 22, 2010 | Written by Tina Benitez | 4 Comments

It’s an Italian classic. Americans love it. You love it. I love it. Brick-oven, thin crust and showing that perfect ratio of tangy tomato sauce to gooey fresh mozzarella: everyone loves pizza.

You can have it anyway you want it, and I’ve tried them all: quattro formaggi, wild mushroom, meat lover’s, white pizza and vegetable. I search out variations of the doughy, crusty delight, but I never stray too far away from my regular slice—or pie—for too long. Thin crust, New York-style pizza remains my first choice—a classic!

Pizza is an American dietary staple, though its roots are in Neapolitan cuisine, and though their regional takes on the dish are part of the pizza excitement. There’s New York Style, sure, but there’s also deep-dish Chicago-style and Hawaiian (topped with pineapple and ham). There’s Cajun pizza and nouvelle pizza. There’s gluten-free pizza, and raw foodie pizza approximations. There seem to be infinite variations to the flat-bread-with-sauce-cheese-and-topping theme.

America boasts more than 69,000 pizzerias, and we consume nearly three billion pizza pies per year, according to research by marketing firm Blumenfeld and Associates. I’ve seen statistics state that we even eat 100 acres of pizza per day, and I could believe it. A “go-to” food, pizza’s easy, affordable and it satiates.

Somehow, in all my years of eating pizza, I never thought of pairing wine with it. Then I read an article by Wine Spectator’s Kim Marcus a few years ago on pairing pizza and wine (the article’s sadly not available online). I was astonished. Why didn’t I ever think of seeking out a wine to complement my pizza? The duo seemed like such a no-brainer that I felt like I’d had a small, but important, epiphany. Since then, I seem to go back to Pinot Noir, preferably an Oregonian one, but I know there’s more.

Once I started to consider the options, I felt stunned by their number. Tomato sauce is usually rich in flavor, and there are plenty of great wines to match. A Chianti Classico, a spicy Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, and most Cabernet Sauvignon or Bordeaux-blends (the herbaceous Cabernet Franc can match up to the oregano and other herbs in most pizza, while Merlot will complement the subtle fruitiness of the tomato) are all contenders.  Likewise, a rich, round Dolcetto that’s full of black cherries, earth, basil and supple tannins will make almost any style of pizza sing. If you prefer white, you may want a Trebbiano or crisper white from Veneto or Friuli. The choice is yours—and mine.

I can’t wait to find my next new pizza. I’m always happy with my classic, New York-style, but as with wine, you can’t always just stick to one.


4 Responses to “Wine and Pizza”

  1. Adriano
    July 22nd, 2010 @ 3:01 pm

    Italians tend towards fizzy drinks w/their pizza…for vino, it’s Lambrusco or another frizzante red (like Gragano Grotta del Sole for example), beer, Coca Cola.

  2. Francesco Vigorito
    July 22nd, 2010 @ 3:05 pm

    Believe it or not Tina, pizza and wine is kinda frowned upon in Italy. Italians usually like to pair their pizza with a crisp Italian lager like Peroni or Nastro Azurro. As there endless amounts of wine and pizza I am huge fan of pairing both. Cab franc is one of my favorites and so is Montepulciano and Negroamaro.

    One night I actually drank a Sassicaia with some mediocre pizza from NJ, and let me tell you, it turned into the best pizza I ever had, lol.

  3. Fabio
    July 23rd, 2010 @ 9:46 am

    Have you considered Lambrusco (red, not rosé)? The medium-dry version goes well with “normal” pizzas and a sweeter one is great with a spicy pizza.

  4. Tina Benitez
    July 23rd, 2010 @ 3:19 pm

    Sassicaia with pizza? I will have to try this! I also like the fizzier options. I don’t think I’ve ever had a sparkling with pizza yet–so many combinations to try!

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