Wine and Pizza…What’s not to love?

Most people, even longtime wine drinkers, reach for a beer when they reach for pizza. However, all you need to do is follow a few simple tips, and you can enjoy your pizza with a perfect wine match.

Remember….When it Comes to Pizza, It’s What’s On Top That Counts!  The trick to matching pizza with wine is to consider the topping.  The pizza itself is just bread, which wine tasters can use to cleanse their palates.  So it’s not the dough, it’s what’s on top  that will affect your wine choice.

Pesto Pizza 

With pizzas that substitute pesto for tomato sauce, try a crisp white with fruity, herbal, and perhaps pine-nutty flavors.  Such wines will blend fabulously with the light, herbal, vegetal flavors topping the pizza and won’t overpower the lighter flavors resting atop the dough. 

Choose a wine with a good zing of acidity…after all, even vegetarian pizzas have plenty of cheese, and your  palate will appreciate the refreshing, cleansing affect of the acid.  Look for wines with flavors of citrus (especially lemon), fresh herbs, green bell pepper, almonds, or pine nuts.  There are endless inexpensive Italian and New World white wines that will fit the bill.

Wine Matches for Pesto Pizza:

Tocai Friulano: The signature white wine from Italy’s Friuli Region, this fleshy white wine combines hints of peach, pear, and almonds with a subtle zing of acidity and a good deal of palate-cleansing acidity.

Pinot Grigio: It’s an iconic Italian White Wine, for good reason…it goes great with Italian Food!  Look for a Pinot Grigio from the “Tre Venezie” region in Northwest Italy, and you will find an expressive white wine with full of citrus flavors, nutty aromas and round, expressive character.

Prosecco: The uber-popular sparkling white wine of Northeast Italy makes an ideal match for any of the herb-infused foods of Italy, so it is a natural for Pesto Pizza!  Loads of citrus flavors, crisp acidity and the mouth mouth-watering flavors in the wine world make this a great choice!

Soave: This delightful, rich, white blend from Italy’s Veneto region is a blend of  (generally) Garganega, Pinot Bianco and Trebbiano grapes. Soave is known for aromas of citrus and apples, mouth-filling fruit flavors and a cool, soothing acidity.

Vernaccia di San Gimignano: The super-star white wine of Italy’s Tuscany region, this crisp white shows aromas and flavors of citrus, apple, almond and herbs…a perfect match for Pesto Pizza!  A cute note of trivia is that this white wine was originally cultivated in Tuscany as a blending grape in the Chianti mix.

The Margherita

The classic Neapolitan pie, the Margherita, is the most popular pizza in most upscale pizzerias.  Traditionally made on a very thin crust, the topping consists of a thin layer of crushed, or sliced tomatoes, a few slices of fresh mozzarella, fresh basil leaves and olive oil. 

The acidity of the tomatoes and the creamy tang of the cheese can rob the grandeur from big, bold wines, so save the aged Cabernets and the Barolo for another occasion.  The best wines for Margherita Pizza are simple, fruit-driven, soft textured reds, or full-bodied, richly fruited whites.

Wine Matches for the Margherita Pizza:

Gavi: A white wine from Italy’s Piedmont region, this cool, clean, and crisp wine is made from the Cortese grape.  Several regions in Piedmont claim Gavi as their own…but the finest (imho) is “Gavi di Gavi.”  Look for fruit, mineral, and green apple flavors on the palate, built around a crisp zing of acidity.

Arneis: A white wine made in Italy’s Piedmont region, this bright, tingly white wine with aromas of grapefruit, wild mountain herbs and smoke is an ideal match for many foods…sausage, seafood, pasta with tomato sauce or even…Margherita Pizza!  Watch out for Arneis…you may have a new  favorite white wine.

Verdicchio: A specialty of Central Italy’s Marche Region, this fresh but full-bodied white wine is redolent with sour apple, pear, and green herbs, all cleaned up with a fresh blast of acidity and a unique bitter-almond finish.

Valpolicella: The classic red wine of Italy’s Veneto Region is a medium bodied, soft wine with spicy cherry flavors.  This ancient wine is
made from a blend of Corvina, Rondinella, and Molinara grapes. Valpolicella has a sharp, rustic edge which, in my mind, makes it a perfect partner for pairing with pizza.

Dolcetto: This delightful red grape makes some amazing wines in Italy’s Piedmont region.  The name means “the little sweet one”, but don’t expect a sweet wine…this wine ferments to total dryness while retaining its rich cherry, blackberry and spice flavors…an ideal match for Pizza Margherita.

The Meat Lover’s Pizza

If you add sausage, salami, or pepperoni to your pizza, you need more than ever to have a good deal of acidity in your wine.  Your palate (and quite possibly your belly) will need it to cut through the richness of the gooey, dripping pizza…acidity it the key ingredient in a wine that will allow it to stand up to the richness of the fatty meats and baked dough, not to mention the cheese!

You also want to up the scales when it comes to the weight or texture of the wine, and for best results, stick to red wines.  Food of this sort requires a wine that can stand up to the challenge of heavy food.  However, keep it on the fruity side…we don’t need any bitterness or richly tannic wines here, they will lose their charm.  Stick to full-bodied, intensely fruity red wines with a sturdy zing of acidity.

Wine Matches for Meat Lover’s Pizza:

Barbera: Another one of Northwest Italy’s red grapes, Barbera makes some of the juiciest, zingiest red wines on earth.  Look for crisp, cherry-flavored acidity balanced with spicy and smoky aromas and “extracted” black fruit flavors.

Chianti Classico: Italy’s most famous wine is well-known for good reason:
the Sangiovese-based blend makes medium-bodied, earthy red wines with
low tannin and hints of cherry, berry, smoke, and spice on the nose and palate.  It’s a perfect pizza wine!

Montepulciano d’Abruzzo: Always soft and generous, with a heaping helping of blackberry fruit, Montepulciano is a great pizza wine.  Underneath all that jammy fruit is a sold structure, a whiff of earthiness, and a pleasurable hint of coffee and herbs.

Primitivo: Primitivo is Italy’s answer to Zinfandel.  As a matter
of fact, Primitivo is either the same grape as Zinfandel,or very closely related, depending on who you ask.  This famous grape of South Italy’s Puglia
region makes wines that are very similar to Zin but in a lighter style.  You
will still find the blackberry, black pepper and cocoa aromas of your favorite
Zin, but without the “punch you in the gut” heavy feel.

Nero d’Avola: Sicily’s most prominent native grape, this deep, rich wine is full of black fruit flavors with a hint of exotic spice.  Despite its voluptuous build, this wine remains moderate on the tannins and heavy on the  raspberry, blackberry and raisin flavors.


About bubblyprof
Wine Writer and Educator...a 20-year journey from Bristol Hotels to Le Cordon Bleu Schools and the Society of Wine Educators

2 Responses to Wine and Pizza…What’s not to love?

  1. To match the taste and savor of a pizza sauce and topping, it is always highly recommended that you choose more acidic wines. As I think, one of the best wine option for any crusty pizza would be a little strong and flavorful.

    • bubblyprof says:

      Agreed! Acidity helps cut through the richness of cheese and meaty toppings…I think all the wines I recommended are quite high in acid. What do you all think???

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