Pizza is such a part of American culture, as our childhood ‘za cravings never seem to dissipate. I want pizza right now, just typing this. As kids, we sipped sodas with our pies, but since we’re all adults now, to most of us, the idea of a glass of wine with pie sounds more appealing than high-fructose corn syrup with bubbles.
And this is not Italy. We have taken the pizza idea and done things to it that no Italian would have ever dreamed to do. From the deep dish of Chi-Town, to the subtle charred glory of a folded New York City slice (Joe’s on Bleecker is the best in Manhattan, fight me), we have created one hell of a spectrum of creativity. Cheese-stuffed and pig-in-a-blanket crusts, Frito pies, baked pies with multiple layers, and even whole lobsters melted into the cheese. Have we gone too far, or not far enough?
I list these extreme examples to make the point that, in the U.S., anything goes on a dough round. We may not be making Frito pies unless we live in a legalized state, but I am sure most of us have stared at that blank, flour-dusted canvas and just let it flow. With all the possibilities, what kind of wine do we pair with the plethora of pizza styles and toppings out there?
With a few exceptions, I like to sip simplicity with pizza. And simplicity in wine is not easily achieved. Creating a wine that has minimal layers and thrives on the inherent fruit character of the grape(s) from which it’s made is not a simple feat. A lot of work goes into making straightforward wines, and they can be as exciting as more complex wines. Especially with pizza. A little bit of oak here and there can be a nice addition, as long as the acidity livens things up.
Here are some ideas that will get you started and hopefully inspire you to get creative and confident when pairing wine with pizza.
Gary Farrell Russian River Selection Pinot Noir
This is a bit pricey for pizza, but it’s worth it. If you’re proud of your handmade pie topped with the best bacon you could find and maybe some glistening baked figs flecked with goat cheese — or just a simple, earthy, chunky mushroom pizza — this soft, supple Pinot will fit right in. It has a wonderful depth of chewy fruit and smells like cherries and balsamic.
Louis Jadot Beaujolais
From veggie to grilled chicken, and from four cheese to cheeseburger pizza — name a pizza, and this wine will jive. Make sure you chill this one down a bit before popping. It’s a mouthful of juicy, cherry fruit with crazy, vibrant acidity. All of that liveliness, along with the awesome price, makes this bottle perfect for a pizza party.
Hello, meat lovers. What up, double pepperoni crew? What’s good, sausage and onions with extra mozz? Order a case of this wine and have it on hand for all that. This Malbec from Washington State is a no-fuss, big and juicy red. It has good tannins to hold up to all that protein, but the dark, blackberry fruit will not be lost on your palate due to some nice acidity.
Tenuta Tascante ‘Ghiaia Nera’ Etna Rosso 2017
Here’s to the classics from the boot. Whether it’s a Neopolitan, the cracker-like rectangular Roman style, or the slight density of a Siciliana, it all began in Italy. And this wine, with a slight chill, will feel like divine intervention. It bursts with juicy cherries with a slight tannic edge. There is such good balance and refreshment here, with the fruit and acidity playing off each other.
Pieropan Soave Classico 2019
The Force love ya, pineapple pizza eaters. I don’t roll that way, but respect. I had it once in the ‘90s, and never again. But I do remember the punchy sweet acidic pop of those yellow chunks contrasting with the grilled spam. And if I were to have it again, I would wash it all down with a buoyant, round white wine with extra acidity to match the pineapple. This wine fits that bill. Actually, with this wine I might be ready to revisit (never say never).
Massaya Classic Blanc 2018
There is something to be said about the more non-pizza pizzas out there. You have the thicker breaded onion and anchovy-loaded Provincial Pissaladière (Pizza alla Andrea), the Manakish of the Levant with flatbread, labneh, perfumed meat, and maybe a few falafel, or the unique pancake-like Japanese pizza Okonomiyaki. Most of these alternative styles aren’t as dense as a traditional pizza and are great with white wine. This white is nice and floral, which will rise above the ingredients complementing them, while retaining a nice, round depth to hold up to any kind of meat or dense sauce.