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Pairing Pizza And Wine: 3 Tips

Selecting a wine to pair with pizza takes a little bit of care, but the learning curve is not steep. The ingredients, particularly the cheese, ask a lot of the accompanying wine. A soft cheese, like mozzarella, can dull down a wine for example. On the other hand, a robust, crisp wine, particularly one with high acidity, can give you the best of both worlds. Whatever toppings you are using matter too so I am only treating the cheese, tomato sauce and crust as givens. But the sausage, pepperoni, meatball or jalapenos should be in the back of your mind when you select the wine. Finding a happy match is doable, so I outlined my criteria for choosing a wine to pair with pizza.

1. White or Red Wine

Red wines have a complex relationship with pizza, and most do not have the necessary acidity to cut through the fat (cheese pizza is greasy). High acid white wines, in contrast, manage to clean the palate with much more ease. This enables you to have greater enjoyment of the wine and the pizza. The other disadvantage of red wine is that pizza is a heavier food, and normally red wine is not as light as white wines. Still, even though your average bottle of red may not be the right choice, you can find many reds with enough personality to excel at the same meal as pizza. Sparkling white wines have also proven to pair well with pizza.

2. Acidic & Italian-Style Wines

Italian wines (or Italian style) are made to hold up better against cheese, such as Chianti. The Italian wine tradition concentrates on wine’s relationship with food (as the yin and yang) and subsequently many of their wines are more acidic. It has to be that way as Italian cuisine involves a lot of starches (think pasta) and cheese. Traditionally, this means bold wines that do not play second fiddle and would make you pucker if you didn’t drink it with food. Although the people of Naples do not mix wine and pizza (the food of the people), a characteristic Aglianico, the dominant wine grape/type around Naples, fits well with pizza.

3. Fruit & Strong Finish

After the acidity cuts through the cheese, you probably want a finish of fruit, especially berries. My preferences is for wines that conjure up black cherries and finish calm despite being able to assert themselves. The “in mouth” should not compete with the pizza as much as cleaning the palate (with acidity) so that you can enjoy a pleasant aftertaste.

Before you start, take into consideration your own preferences (in wines and toppings) and size up the different ingredients in your pizza. After a little experimenting, you will notice patterns that predict what wines you like with pizza. Stick at it because as soon as you get it right, you may never eat another slice without a glass of wine.

1st Photo is Creative Commons from Flickr