Pizza – a staple in university. Pizza – still delicious. But what if you want something other than beer with your “za”? Should you open up that bottle of 2000 Grand Cru Bordeaux? Probably not. But there is a multitude of other wine choices out there.
Let’s start with the basics. Your average pizza is made up of a crust, some tomato sauce, melted cheese and maybe some meat. You will want to drink a wine with medium to high acidity. Why? Acidity in wine acts in much the same way as does a squirt of lemon on deep-fried calamari – it cuts through the fat and cleanses the palate. The cheesy goodness on your pizza screams for a wine with acidity. Also, tomatoes are a high-acid food. It is generally a good idea to match acidity with acidity.
For the most part, pizza is a simple and straightforward food and the wine you select should follow suit. You don’t want to choose something too delicate like a Pinot Noir that may be overwhelmed by the robustness of the pizza flavours. Look for something fruity and medium-bodied.
But from where in the world should this wine come? How about looking to the home of pizza? Italy is known for its high acid wines and there are plenty to choose from, but I do have a couple of favourites.
At the top of my list is Barbera from the Piedmont region in north-western Italy. The two famous communes for Barbera production are Asti and Alba. Ascheri Fontanelle Barbera D'alba 2011 is a delicious choice and it meets our criterion for high acidity. It is a juicy wine with loads of tart red fruit and will go really well with your next pizza.
Chianti is another wine that falls nicely into this category. It has the acidity we are looking for and it is a great wine to pair with food – not just pizza! I love the wines from Rocca Di Castagnoli and their 2011 Chianti fits the bill. This wine has a savoury component and will marry well with mushrooms and sausage.
If you want to have a wine that wasn’t Italian, you might look to California’s adopted grape – Zinfandel. There are different styles of Zinfandel. I would stay away from the full-bodied, oaky versions and stick with something a little lighter and with just a hint of oak. Ravenswood Vintner’s Blend Old Vines Zinfandel 2012 is one such wine. It still has tons of fruit in the classic Zinfandel style but shows a little more restraint than its bigger, bolder cousins.
Which wines do you love with your pizza?