Pizza Pairings 

What to drink with a slice or whole pie

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For many of us, beer is the default beverage for drinking alongside pizza. In part, that's because a lot of pizza joints, particularly in Utah, serve beer but not wine. That's a shame, because pizza provides an almost unmatched opportunity for trying out a range of wines. Vino and pizza go hand in hand.

When choosing wine to drink with pizza, it's important to remember the basic rules of wine pairings: Don't just think "pizza"—think of the components that make up the pizza. Apply the same general wine-pairing guidelines you would with other foods: heavier wines go with heavier sauces, acidic or high-alcohol wines go with fatty foods, and so on. So, for a pizza topped with barbecue chicken, think "barbecue" before thinking "pizza," and turn to wines that go well with barbecue.

Well, what about that barbecue-chicken pizza? These typically have a sweet, fruity and tangy barbecue sauce that calls for a fruit-forward wine such as Malbec from Argentina. A fruity American old-vine Zinfandel such as Bucklin Old Hill Ranch Bambino would also do the trick.

Pinot Noir is a classic wine to pair with meaty mushrooms, and I'd certainly turn to a Oregon Pinot Noir such as Erath, Eyrie or Chehalem—or perhaps an earthy Italian Lambrusco to match the earthiness of mushrooms.

Americans probably eat more pepperoni pizza than any other type, so what wine should we drink with pepperoni? Well, although a slice of pepperoni pizza seems pretty straightforward, there's actually a lot going on there. There's a high fat content in pepperoni to start with, as well as fairly intense flavors of cured meats (most pepperoni is made from a blend of beef and pork), as well as spices: cayenne pepper, garlic powder, paprika and such. Plus, there's acidity from the pizza's red sauce and fatty cheese to boot. Keeping in mind that the tomato sauce and pepperoni will contribute a lot of acidity, spice and sweetness to the pizza, I'd look for a medium-bodied, fruit-forward red wine for balance—something like Italian Chianti or Syrah. Ruffino Riserva Ducale Chianti Classico would fit the bill perfectly.

My favorite meat pizzas are ones with beefy meatball slices or Italian sausage. If you think about it, pizza dough (flour, water and yeast) with tomato sauce and meat topping isn't very different from spaghetti & meatballs or Italian-sausage lasagna. I'd lean toward an Italian spaghetti & meatballs wine—one that can handle the tanginess and acidity of tomato sauce, plus the fattiness from the meatballs or sausage and a Parmesan cheese topping. You might try something like a lighter-bodied Chianti or, better yet, Rosso di Montalcino D.O.C. Sangiovese wines like those produced by Camigliano or Argiano.

Although I can't ever imagine myself eating one, the pineapple-with-Canadian-bacon pizza poses an intriguing wine pairing challenge. So again, let's examine the components. Alsatians and Germans have no problem pairing Riesling and Pinot Gris with cured meats, bacon, charcuterie and such—and Riesling's fruity sweetness would also serve as a good partner for the sweet tropical flavors of pineapple. Try the yummy Chateau Ste. Michelle Eroica Riesling. Problem solved.

When push comes to shove, a simple Margherita pizza—tomatoes, fresh mozzarella and basil—is my all-time favorite. It's so simple that many wines would overpower a Margherita's subtle flavors. So, I'd recommend drinking a dry rosé, such as Lorenza, Carol Shelton Rendezvous Rosé, Copain Tous Ensemble, Atrea Skid Rosé or Le Cirque Rosé.

Got your own favorite slice & sip combo? Let us know.

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More by Ted Scheffler

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