While many other pairings in the wine world are, while not simple, at least made easier by a look to tradition, pizza is a bit of enigma. In that traditional home of pizza, Italy, pizza is rarely ever paired with a wine. Whether it is due to simple habit or an accident of economics, it remains uncommon. The normal beverage is either a Coke or a beer. But if a pairing a particular wine with any dish is a matter of personal preference, then too is pairing any wine with any dish a personal preference. So if pizza cries out for a wine, then drink what works well for you.
The Factors: The Classic Margherita
A pizza has a few components to consider: crust, cheese, sauce, and toppings. Assuming a typical margherita with a thin crust, tomato sauce, a few slices of mozzarella, and fresh basil, the tomato will be one of the most dominant flavors. Tomatoes, in addition to a sweetness brought through only when they are truly ripe, contribute significant levels of acid to any dish. When pairing a wine with pizza, a somewhat dry wine will work well. The tomato sauce will contribute the acid and slight sour undertone while the mozzarella will offer up salt and fat for the acid to cut.
The fat the cheese contains is another consideration. The cheese also needs the acid to cut through it, though this must be tempered with the reality that acid and dairy do not always mix well together. The fact that the cheese is already curdled helps alleviate some of this problem. But keep the possibility in mind and be careful with your selection.
The Factors: Other Toppings
Toppings beside the “classic” pizza might have you consider a different wine. If you have chosen a sweeter sort of topping, like the Hawaiian pizza with its pineapple, a sweeter wine such as a Riesling, or a non-sweet but light Sauvignon blanc or Beaujolais, will serve you well. Heartier pizzas dominated by meats need stronger wines to stand up to the flavors, but which will not overwhelm the other flavors. Search for full-bodied white wines, such as Chardonnay or a Pinot Grigio; a strong Syrah would taste wonderful as well.
Vegetarian pizzas have far more flavors than pizzas dominated by the singular flavor of meat. Therefore, they require a wine which balances many of the characteristics of various wines. The toppings, cheese, and sauce all require enhancement. A Pinot Noir is a good choice here, one which straddles the fence in heaviness and acidity.
In spite of the classic tradition of ignoring wine while serving pizza, what may well be the world’s favorite fruit-based drink works exceptionally well. If spaghetti with tomato sauce, with some grated cheese on top, can be served with wine, so too can pizza. Keeping in mind the need for balance, pizza can be the foil to many a wine. But in a pinch, an inexpensive Chianti can always save the day. The Italians had that one right.
|Food||Wine (Best Pairing Listed First)|
|Pizza, cheese||Chardonnay, Zinfandel|
|Pizza, pepperoni/meat||Barbera, Regular Chianti,Chianti Classico or even a Chianti Classico Reserva|
|Pizza, pineapple and ham||Beaujolais, Riesling|
|Pizza, vegetarian or pizza with fresh tomatoes||Cabernet Franc, Chianti, Sauvignon Blanc|
|Pizza, white sauce||Chardonnay, Pinot Noir|