Pizza and wine standout among the culinary treasures Italy has gifted the world.
If the unique flavor of Napolese pizza dough or the kick of a fine Barolo have crossed your lips, you’ve likely wondered how to recreate the experience.
Great news, it’s easier than you might think with these two easy-to-remember tricks for finding the best wine to pair with pizza:
- Let geography guide your pizza and wine pairing
- Experiment with wines you don’t often drink
See below for some pairing ideas you can enjoy at home.
What Grows Together, Goes Together
Over many generations, chefs and winemakers around the world have zeroed in on what wines go best with pizza. They often come from the same region. In other words, Italian wines complement pizzas of every sort.
We recommend the following six combinations:
1. Chianti Classico and Meat Lovers' Pizza
Chianti Classico is a flexible red that’s acidic enough to contrast the salty richness of Italian-cured meats and cheeses like Parmigiano-Reggiano.
On the technical side, the structure of a Chianti Classico holds up well to meat flavors which, in turn, balance its tannins.
Should you end up at a wine store trying to make out the difference between Chianti and Chianti Classico, fear not, the main difference is in the volume of grape varietals in the wine.
After decades of debate, Italian wine authorities have agreed: a Chianti Classico must contain 80-100% Sangiovese and up to 20% Cabernet, Colorino, Canaiolo Merlot or Syrah.
A final noteworthy detail if you’re persuaded by this combination: Many of the least expensive Chianti Classicos are considered the best.
2. Rosés and Vegetable Pizza
If you’re trying to decide what wine goes with vegetable pizza, we recommend a classic combo, an Italian rosé and Margherita.
The lightness of a pink wine, or rosato, as it’s known in Italy, tempers the acidity of tomato sauce. You’ll have equal success pairing rosé and pizzas topped with delicate flavors like buffalo mozzarella.
An Italian rosé such as Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo, known for its brightness and cherry flavor, also works well with almost any dish that includes tomato and other nightshade vegetables like peppers.
If you’re a veggie lover who doesn’t necessarily love rosé, wines that have green flavors of lime or green apple tend to pair nicely with green vegetables and the increasingly popular pizza topping, arugula. Consider a Sauvignon Blanc which is grown throughout Italy.
Finally, if your vegetable toppings of choice include mushroom, a sparkling rosé or light, earthy Lambrusco can easily hold up to the flavors.
When combining with pizza, opt for a lighter, pinkish Lambrusco such as Lambrusco di Sorbara which has the appearance of a sparkling rosé and is produced throughout north central Italy.
3. Riesling and Pineapple Pizza
If you fall on the ‘yes’ side of the world-wide debate around whether pineapple is a worthy pizza topping, consider an acidic wine for pairing with your pizza.
If you prefer whites, you’ll do well with a wine like an Italian Riesling. Its sweetness will amplify that of the pineapple while its acidity will act as a palette cleanser.
Riesling is an especially good choice if your pizza is veering in the direction of a full Hawaiian that includes bacon. Rieslings’ sweetness can do double duty by balancing the saltiness of any cured meat.
For reds, though you may not encounter many Italians adding pineapple to their pies, the country nonetheless produces a wine that works well with it, Lambrusco. This fruit-forward red has enough acid and sweetness to handle the same properties in pineapple.
Pizza and Wines from Beyond Italy
While some Italian wines are a heavenly match with pizza, many made elsewhere are also great. Consider experimenting with wines you haven’t tried before, or, may have dismissed as an unlikely complement to pizza.
4. Champagne and Mushroom Pizza
As with sparkling rosé and Lambrusco, Champagne is acidic enough to balance the intense flavors of any funghi.
At the same time, the lees flavor in many Champagnes, sometimes described as a bready or yeasty undercurrent, can complement the flavors of dough.
If the price point for Champagne is unappetizing, there are many other reasonably priced bubblies that also work well with pizza. Spain’s answer to Champagne is Cava, a sparkling wine produced in Catalonia. A Cremant is a good option as well.
5. Pinot Noir and Marinara Pizza
Keep things simple with the always-reliable wine selection, Pinot Noir. It is a favorite among chefs and wine experts because of how easily it pairs with a wide range of dishes.
This light bodied red works well with pizza, offering up hints of warm spice such as cinnamon.
While Pinot Noir complements the simple flavors of a Marinara pizza – tomato sauce, garlic and oregano – it can also match the intense flavors of cured meat. It’s so versatile that some chefs recommend Pinot Noir as one of the best wines with pepperoni pizza because of the strong pepper flavors in each that work so well together.
6. Yes to No-alcohol Wines with Spicy Pizza
Since high alcohol content tends to amplify spicy flavors, you can rely on a no-alcohol wine to do the opposite and tame the heat.
If cool, sweeter whites and rosés don’t appeal, try a no-alcohol red such as Dolcetto or Barbera.
No-alcohol wines that contain lemon flavors also do well with a white pizza pie.
No-alcohol wines are becoming more popular in every part of the world, so you’ll be able to choose from an ever-expanding list. Afterall, grape juice and pizza are well-matched, regardless of alcohol content.
The same guidance applies: The flavors in your no-alcohol beverage must hold up to those in your pizza.