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PIZZA AND WINE AKA: When the Moon Hits Your Eye…


After decades as both a Sommelier and Wine Writer I woke up this morning and realized I have never written about wine-pairing America’s favorite food. To make matters worse your intrepid reporter grew up in New York, which by any standard was and is America’s Pizza Mecca.

So before I lose all credibility let’s break this down. We have two distinct categories with the Pizza Pie experience; in the parlor, and to-go

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. BTW the loss of “Pizza Parlor” as common parlance in this country is borderline tragic in this pundit’s eyes, so here it is my attempt to bring this vivid term back into your lives; you are welcome.

We will use little of our column space on Pizza Parlor wine offerings as they are almost universally lacking in both selection and quality. Most Parlors also don’t have a corkage policy, but if you have one that you visit regularly let the management know you would be happy to pay such a fee to bring your own wine.

On to the much larger category of pizza-to-go which opens your wine options to a brighter palate of  possibilities.

As with any food/wine pairing, a good match prioritizes the dominant flavors of the food. In the case of classic pizzas these are the robust flavors of Italy delivered in the sauce and toppings of your pie. This is why Italian red wines shine as they bring bright acidity, herbs and earth notes and dark punchy fruits that dance oh-so-well with the assertive sauces, meats and vegetables that define pizza.

Here is a wine-by-the-region hit list of options that rock with Pizza Pie. If the wine name does not tell you the primary grape I will add those along with brief tasting notes that will help with pie-pairing.

Chianti, which hails from Tuscany, is made from Sangiovese grapes and is earthy and spicy which makes it ideal for cured-meat pies like Pepperoni and Sausage.

Valpolicella is made primarily from Corvina grapes from the Veneto region and has more vivid fruit which makes it match with non-traditional pies such as Pineapple with Canadian Bacon.

Barberas or Dolcettos from Piemonte are going to be your flex partners and are perfect with your everything-but-the-kitchen-sink pizzas.

Formerly rustic Negromaoaros or Primitivos from Apuglia are moving in a new-world direction with California Zinfandel profiles. A BBQ sauce pizza could not ask for a better table-mate.

Other Italian reds that are pizza-lovers are Montepulciano from Abbruzzo,  Aglianico from Campania, and Cannonau from Sardinia, are all earthy and therefore Mushroom and Meat Pie mates. Nero d’Avola from Sicily features bright cherry fruit that goes with vege-pies like a bell pepper/sweet onion combo.

So there you go, your official pizza-pie-pairing-primer. Mange!

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