Nothing elevates a slice of pizza quite like the perfect glass of wine to enjoy alongside it. But with so many topping and sauce options, choosing the right wine pairing can pose a challenge.
A savory red pizza with pepperoni or sausage may go better with a red wine, while a creamy white pizza could be better matched by a full-bodied white wine. A pizza with more delicate flavors, meanwhile, could pair nicely with a rosé wine.
Overall, the best wines to pair with pizza tend to be fruity, lighter-bodied red wines and fuller-bodied whites with plenty of character. Some Italian wines seem to work particularly well across the board, including Lambrusco, Barbera d’Asti, Gamay from Beaujolais and lighter styles of Sangiovese. But the exact wine will depend on your pizza of choice. To help you select the perfect wine pairing, we have put together a simple guide with some of the most popular pizza styles and the wines that go best with them.
A classic of Naples, Margherita is considered by many the “original” pizza – red, white and green like the colors of the national flag of Italy. The flavors of a Margherita pizza depend largely on the quality of its three toppings: tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese and fresh basil. As the latter are relatively delicate in flavor, we recommend to pair this pizza with a wine equally delicate in flavor, like a dry, salmon-pink Cotes de Provence rosé or a light-bodied red wine like a Grenache from France or Chianti, which is a popular staple at pizzerias around the world. We recommend avoiding very tannic red wines, which will overpower the delicate acidity of the tomato sauce.
The “ying” to the “yang” of tomato-sauce-based pizza is the white pizza, topped with creamy ricotta or an assortment of quick-melting cheeses. In this case, the quality of the pizza dough is in the spotlight. One of our favorite wine pairings is a sparkling wine, like a Champagne or Vouvray, whose naturally high acidity combat the rich, fatty texture of the cheeses, while the yeasty lees flavors of the wine complement the flavors of the freshly baked pizza dough. For a particularly indulgent experience, try a full-bodied white wine like a Chardonnay whose texture is rounded out by some malolactic fermentation. White pizzas also sometimes feature mushrooms, truffle or truffle oil, in which case a Pinot Noir from Burgundy is the obvious wine pairing choice. The fresh red fruit and earthy aromas of undergrowth in this wine will complement the mushrooms beautifully.
One of the most colorful and heart-healthy pizza choices is the vegetarian pizza, topped with an array of veggies. These may include bell peppers, zucchini, onions, mushrooms, cherry tomatoes and olives, all roasted and caramelized under the direct heat of the pizza oven. Pair this pizza with the same kinds of wines you would pair with roasted vegetables: an earthy Pinot Noir, a cool-climate Cabernet Franc from the Loire Valley or a Bordeaux dry white, for example. And if salad pizza - topped with fresh greens like baby spinach or arugula, spritzed with a bit of vinaigrette and topped with a bit of goat cheese - is more your speed, choose a crisp and mineral white, like a Chablis or Sauvignon Blanc from Sancerre.
For the meat lovers among us nothing hits the spot quite like a pizza topped with spicy pepperoni, crumbled Italian sausage or a combination of pepperoni, sausage, bacon and ham. The bold, spicy flavors of a pepperoni pizza will go best with a wine with rich fruity flavors, such as a Sangiovese or Nero d’Avola from Sicily. Just be careful to choose something not too tannic, as tannins can magnify the spice of a food. To complement the black pepper flavors of a sausage pizza, we would choose an equally peppery wine, such as a Syrah from the Rhone Valley or a Zinfandel from California. And to pair with the hearty mélange of proteins topping a Meat Lover’s Pizza, we recommend an equally hearty red wine, such as a Tempranillo from Rioja or a Cabernet Sauvignon.
Tender, juicy pieces of white meat chicken, crunchy slices of red onion and pockets of tangy, smoky and sweet BBQ sauce top the classic BBQ Chicken Pizza. Here, the wine you choose will have to pair well with the bold and nuanced flavors of the sauce. We recommend a juicy Malbec from Argentina (generally a great pairing with any barbecued dish) or a Merlot-based Right Bank Bordeaux, like a Pomerol, with silky-smooth tannins.
While it is definitely the most polarizing of pizza styles, we cannot deny that Hawaiian pizza is beloved by foodies around the world. Sweet Canadian ham, chunks of fresh pineapple and a blanket of cheese top this unique pizza, the only style featuring tropical fruit. To pair with a Hawaiian Pizza, we recommend a floral Chenin Blanc from the Loire or a Riesling from Germany, whose combination of sweetness, acid and minerality will match up nicely with the ham and pineapple.
Pizza is a highly versatile dish with a wide array of topping and sauce options. When choosing to pair wine with pizza, consider the overarching flavors of the dish - whether it is savory, mild, creamy, meaty, smoky, spicy or sweet. The perfect bottle will either match these flavors and magnify them or contrast them in a way that achieves greater balance overall.
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