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The Best Wines to Drink with Pizza



Pairing wine with pizza can be challenging, largely because “pizza” is far from a homogeneous population.  On the contrary, pizza can range from a rich thick crusted tomato based pepperoni and cheese laden pie to Hawaiian pizza, with white sauce, ham and pineapple.  So to recommend what wine to have with pizza requires a bit more investigation. 

Before selecting a wine to quaff with your next delivered pizza, consider the major components that go into that perfect pizza.

Sauce – Most pizza will use either a tomato, white (cream/garlic) or pesto based sauce, tomato being the most common.  Ripe tomatoes are naturally high in malic and citric acid and their acidity shows up in the final product.  Cream sauces containing butter, flour, milk, cheese, and some sort of Italian seasonings, are smoother and lacking in acidity.  A Pesto sauce will often also have lemon juice adding some acidity, but most important is the powerful aroma of the basil, from Eugenol, the same oil that produces the aroma in cloves.  The powerful flavor drives the need for an equally powerful and intense wine. 

Toppings – Toppings can be divided into two primary categories, meat and vegetables.  Hawaiian pizza doesn't fit nicely anywhere so put it to the side with a Riesling.  Meat toppings add intensity and spiciness (think Pepperoni) to the mix, and often overpower the acidity of the red sauce, expanding the wine selections to virtually any robust red.  Vegetables on the other hand can add subtle aromas or dominate as is the case with onions or garlic.  The best wine pairings usually retain the acidity, but take the aroma profile down a notch or two so as to not overpower the vegetables.


Cheese – Although seldom the dominant player in the cornucopia of tastes in pizza, it may nonetheless need to be considered if the cheese is a particularly strong or salty Buffalo Mozzarella, Gruyere, Blue Cheese, smoked Edam, or Cheddar.

Having considered these three components, ask yourself which is the dominant player in the bunch?  Is it the sauce, a spicy topping or a particularly aromatic cheese?  With the dominant flavor in mind, use the table below to begin your exploration of wines that often bring out the best in the pizza.

Type of Pizza

Try these Wines

 

Tomato Sauce with Cheese (no toppings)

Sangiovese (Chianti), Montepulciano d'Abruzzo, Vernaccia.  These wines can have a fair amount of acidity that compliments the acidity of the tomato sauce.

 

Tomato Sauce with Meat Toppings (Hamburger, Bacon, Pepperoni)

Sangiovese (Chianti), Zinfandel, Barbera, Malbec, Shiraz, Aglianico, or Cabernet Sauvignon.  Stay with the higher acidity wines but the intensity of the meats allow for bolder wines.

 

Tomato Sauce with Vegetable Toppings (Peppers, mushrooms, onions)

 

Sauvignon Blanc, Vernaccia, Cabernet Franc.  This may vary a lot depending on the toppings.  Best to stay with high acidity wines but introduce whites so as not to overpower the more delicate aromas of the vegetables.

 

White Sauce with Cheese (no toppings)

Sauvignon Blanc, Vermentino, Friulano, and Pinot Grigio.  Remember it isn't often that the cheese is the dominant flavor in the pizza.  But if it is, remember that softer cheeses popular on pizza (Mozzarella, Provolone) pair better with wines with acidity.

 

White Sauce with Poultry or Vegetable toppings

Full bodied Chardonnay, Vermentino, Friulano, and Pinot Grigio.  Less emphasis on acidity moves the choices to aromatic medium and full bodied whites.

 

 

Regardless of your selection, don't be afraid to experiment.  While the safe choice may be Chianti, there is plenty of room to branch out and expand your varietal horizons.

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