Odd Pair: Top 5 Wines to Pair with Pizza

Categories: Wine Time

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Above: "Pizza al Trancio" (Pizza by the Slice) in Rome, paired with Coca Cola.

Here in the U.S., we don't think of it as an "odd pair." But in Italy, homeland of pizza and a country where wine is considered an essential element of healthy dining, pizza and wine are rarely if ever paired.

Don't believe me? Ask an Italian: From German-speaking Italy in the north to Sicily, Italians will invariably tell you that they pair beer or Coca Cola with pizza. In fact, the thought of pizza matched with wine is outright repugnant to some Italians, who tend to hold tradition above experimentation when it comes to their gastronomic heritage.

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There is one exception to the rule. In Naples, the city where pizza originated, they pair a sparkling red wine with pizza: Gragnano. Low in alcohol, gently fizzy, grapey and bright in acidity, chilled Gragnano works well with pizza, which is traditionally served piping hot (I hate to break it to you but Italians -- even stoner Italians -- don't eat cold pizza for breakfast).

Ex-Wine Spectator editor, James Suckling, one of the world's most famous English-language chroniclers of Italian wine, loves to pair Lambrusco (from Emilia-Romagna) with pizza. But those who follow his enoic adventures wouldn't exactly call him a traditionalist.

As much as I am lover of classic Italian gastronomy and food and wine pairing, I must confess that I often stray from the canon when it comes to pizza. And like Italian food maven Arthur Schwartz (author of the landmark tome, Naples at Table, Harper Collins, 1998), I believe that when it comes to pizza, if you can't be with the one you love, love the one you're with.

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Here are my top 5 picks for pizza wine:

1) Champagne. Ultimately, if we look to tradition, we find that chilled sparkling wine works well with pizza. The bright acidity of classic champagne makes it a great match for the acidity naturally found in tomatoes and mozzarella. With a little more body, Rosé Champagne can work particularly well.

2) Barbera. In Northern Italy, they often serve Barbera slightly chilled. When vinified in a traditional manner (i.e., unoaked), red grape is known for its lip-splitting acidity and its lack of tannin. Perfect for the doughy stuff.

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3) Gewürztraminer. I know I sound like a broken record, but here, again, vibrant acidity is the key. The eye-popping white fruit flavors work nicely with pizza's intrinsic saltiness.

4) Californian Vin Gris. There are a few bold Californian winemakers who produce excellent rosé wine from Pinot Noir, called vin gris or grey wine in French. Especially when I want a wine with some tannic structure that I can serve chilled, I'll reach for Vin Gris with pizza.

5) Finger Lakes Johannisberg Riesling. The gentle sweetness in New York State Johannisberg Riesling can play beautiful counterpoint to the spiciness of certain toppings (like chili flakes on a classic NY slice with peperoni).

What's you favorite pizza wine? Please share your top picks in the comments section.



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18 comments
Maurizio Fava
Maurizio Fava

sorry, Jeremy, but I disagree. In Naples, Gragnano is more famous for pasta than for a sperkling wine, and the usual companion for Pizza Verace is Asprinio (sparkling or not) or, more often, Falanghina and Fiano.Gewürtztraminer, as you know, is only a fashion wine in Italy, but the matching with food of such a sweety (often more than 10 g.\sugars per liter) and very aromatical wine is a big mistake, even according the producers themselves. In Alto Adige they never drink Gewürtz with food.Beer is very often paired, but it is another mistake, as carbonic mixed in our stomach with the bread yeasts and that causes a bad after-dinner for digestion.The Italian Pizza lovers, therefore, think that the best drink for Pizza can't be a foreign drink, but a simple white or red dry Italian wine. Gavi, Verdicchio, Trebbiano, Soave, Falanghina, and Barbera, Bardolino, Montepulciano are perfect, to be matched with the Pizza taste (seafood, salame, anchovies, garlic, onions and so on..)Ciao, Buon Appetito!

Terence
Terence

I usually drink a lighter bodied, zippy red with pizza, slightly chilled -- like the Barbera that Jeremy mentions, or a Piedirosso from Campania (territorially correct!) or even a Frappato from Sicily. There are others, of course, but that would be confusing. 

Loris
Loris

Try chilled, fresh, sparkling Prosecco. I am originally from Modena, homeland of the main varieties of Lambrusco, and appreciate a couple of cool glasses of Lambrusco di Sorbara.

Joanie Karapetian
Joanie Karapetian

I love the idea of Gewurztraminer with pizza... never tried it!  

dawineguy
dawineguy

A nice big Syrah with pepperoni pizza is about as good as it gets.  Not too fruity on that Syrah though, no fruit bombs.

pop-top choker
pop-top choker

are these recommendations based on the assumption that the pizza is akin to what we'd call a Margareta? (like those traditional pies pictured?) what if we get into some salty meats? or some good funk like roasted garlic, oregano, olives, anchovies? figs?

Eric Henao
Eric Henao

Wine is good, but don't skimp on the pizza. Get a  @pinkspizza . They rock it right, YO!

Nicholas L. Hall
Nicholas L. Hall

I like a nice, classic Valpolicella. I think the good acidity stands up to the pizza well, and the tart cherry flavors that predominate are a nice match for the fruity flavors in the sauce. I particularly enjoy this pairing when some rich, funky prosciutto tops the pie.

Christina Uticone
Christina Uticone

#FLX shout out! <3

I don't buy many of the Johannisbergs (we go dry w/ Riesling) but I agree on the champagne & on the Barbera. My favorite bottle w/ pizza is Villa Pozzi Nero D'avola.

FYI: FLX Italian-American stoners DEFINITELY eat cold pizza for breakfast! ;-)

Jeremy Parzen
Jeremy Parzen

Man, I wish I had some Mustilli Piedirosso right now! 

Jeremy Parzen
Jeremy Parzen

Prosecco, right on! Lambrusco di Sorbara is my favorite of the Lambruschi... but I reserve it for my zampone! ;) 

Jeremy Parzen
Jeremy Parzen

I think it can work great... especially with cured anchovies... :) 

Jeremy Parzen
Jeremy Parzen

No fruit bombs! :) exactly! Great pairing! 

Jeremy Parzen
Jeremy Parzen

The Margarita is the apotheosis of pizza in my view. And I always use it as an acid test for any pizzaiolo. In America, we get pretty creative with our pizzas and so there are many more pairing possibilities. 

Jeremy Parzen
Jeremy Parzen

sounds like you speak from expierence! ;) Love Nero d'Avola with pizza. 

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