Pizza and Wine

Pizza is one of the most versatile dishes.  It can be presented gourmet style at a dinner party to discriminating adults, served to a group of rambunctious kids at a birthday party, munched on as finger food in front of the television, or eaten cold from the fridge as breakfast.  The styles vary greatly as well, spanning from micro-thin Roman crust to Chicago-style deep dish.  Complicating things further is the broad range of toppings that can adorn the pizza; a variety of flavourful meats that will have a wide range of spiciness; vegetables that range in the level of heat; an assortment of cheeses with varying levels of saltiness; the possibility of anchovies or pineapple; and finally, the type of sauce.  Complicating things even further is the option to have a variety of pizzas at one time, giving guests several choices to indulge in.

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So how do you ever decide which wine to serve with all these variations and possibilities?  Should the wine be paired with pizza sauce and toppings in similar fashion as with a plate of pasta? What if there are multiple pizzas or a pizza that is half one type and half another type? Should Italian wine be served in recognition of pizza’s origins, even if you are serving pineapple and ham topped pizza?  How can the simplest dish be so complicated?

A number of experts agree that pretty much any wine can go well with pizza. It can be fun to pair your favourite pizza with the perfect wine but you may feel that pizza wine is a mood. The trick is to find wine that celebrates rather than competes with what’s on your mind and your plate.  In other words, the perfect pizza wine is in the eye of the beholder.

When serving one type of wine with a variety of pizza, choose a versatile bottle that will appeal to as many people as possible.   If you decide to serve more than one type of wine, be sure to highlight this fact and encourage your guests to try the various combinations of wine and pizza.

However, for those who prefer to match specific wines to a particular type of pizza, here are some suggestions for you.

BBQ Chicken Pizza

The smokiness and sweetness of the barbeque sauce will pair well with Pinot Noir, Dolcetto, Merlot, Chardonnay or Rosé.

Hawaiian Pizza

A reasonably sweet Riesling, Prosecco or Sauvignon Blanc will pair well as a counterbalance to the saltiness of the ham and the flavour of the pineapple.

Margherita Pizza

Featuring the simple and classic flavours of tangy tomato, creamy mozzarella and fragrant basil, a margarita pizza lends itself to light/medium-bodied wines. Pinot Grigio, Sangiovese or Rosé would all be good choices.

Meat Lovers Pizza

The intense flavours of Meat Lovers needs a wine with a higher amount of tannins, such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Tempranillo, Shiraz or Malbec.

Pepperoni Pizza

Because of the spiciness of pepperoni, a wine with rich, fruity flavours like a Sangiovese, Barbera or Nebbiolo would pair well.

Vegetarian Pizza

With Vegetarian pizza it is important to have a wine that won’t compete with the mix of vegetables on the pizza. An unoaked Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Prosecco or Rosé are all good choices.

Final Thoughts

Whatever you decide to do, whether it be pair your wine to the type of pizza or take a more generalist approach, there is an old theory that says, “What grows together, goes together”, which means that most any Italian-style wine will go well with whatever pizza you serve.  My personal preference is Sangiovese but Chianti, Nebbiolo, Barbera, Nero d’Avola, Fiano or Vermentino pair well too.

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Wine Diamonds

Occasionally you may come across a bottle of wine that contains tiny crystal shards that could appear as tiny pieces of broken glass. These are tartrates that are often referred to as wine diamonds. Although they may cause a slight gritty texture on your tongue, they are harmless and safe to consume.

These wine diamonds may occur if the wine has been exposed to temperatures below 4°C, when potassium and tartaric acid, both naturally occurring products of grapes, bind together to form a crystal.

Tartaric acid is used to maintain a wine’s body, character and colour but many wines contain a surplus of the acid, which accounts for the appearance of the wine diamonds.  Potassium, which is another big component in wine, binds with the acid and creates a salt called tartaric bisulfate, which separates from the wine and creates the crystals that are found at the bottom of the wine bottle or on the underside of the cork.

The colour of these crystals is dependent on the pigment of the wine. In red wine they will often appear brown or dark red. In white wines they will often look brownish or resemble glass.

It is difficult to predict which wines will have high levels of tartaric acid and thus have wine crystals.  Weather, region, soil nutrients and grape varieties all play a role in determining the amounts of acid present in a particular grape.

Older wines are more likely to form crystals or sediment once the cork is removed. As wines are constantly evolving during the aging process, elements within the wine are constantly interacting with each other. As such, some chemical bonds that are formed in the bottle are denser than the wine itself, causing them to sink to the bottom of the bottle. This is part of the aging process.

The presence of wine diamonds is considered by many winemakers as a sign of high quality because it means that the wine was not over processed.

Although wine diamonds may leave a slight gritty texture on your tongue, they do not impact the taste of the wine nor do they pose a health risk.  They are completely safe to drink.

If you prefer not to serve wine crystals in your wine you can decant the wine by simply pouring the wine through a wine strainer or cheesecloth into a wine decanter.

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The Best Scotch for 2023

Today I present to you the amalgamated thoughts of ten different sources – Liquor, VinePair, Gear Patrol, Forbes, Esquire, Punch Drink, Elle, GQ, Men’s Health and Delish – as to what are the Top 5 Scotch Whisky recommendations for 2023.  The results were compiled by the organization StudyFinds.

However, before presenting the list, there are some things to keep in mind.  There are a large number of Scotch Whiskies produced, many of which are not available for purchase outside of Scotland. Therefore, this list just contains those whiskies that have benefited from international exposure and have, in return, received the most attention and the largest number of recommendations from writers and critics.

So, without further ado here is the list.

1. Talisker 10-Year-Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky ($139.95 CDN)

Talisker is created by the oldest distillery on the Isle of Skye.  It is aged in ex-bourbon casks for a minimum of 10 years.  It boasts a rich gold colour.  With a powerful peat-smoke on the nose with just a hint of the sea-water salt of fresh oysters and citrus sweetness, this full, rich-bodied single malt has a rich dried-fruit sweetness on the palate, with smoke and strong barley malt flavours. It has a finish that is long and warm, with an appealing sweetness.

Bartenders favour Talisker 10-Year-Old Single Malt because of its salty, smoky and spicy flavour.  They find it an excellent choice when making stirred drinks and highballs because of its oily texture and weight.

2. Glenfarclas 15-Year-Old ($109.50 CDN)

Glenfarclas is one of the few remaining family owned and operated distilleries in Scotland.

The Glenfarclas 15 is bold and very smooth with aromas of port and sherry followed by a little smoke and leather.  There are flavours of a bit of jalapeno and a little anise and a little smoke, ending with a pepper spicy finish.

3. Ardbeg Corryvreckan ($201.40 CDN)

This one has been getting a lot of press lately.  It was included in my holiday gift suggestion list for the Scotch drinker in December.

In 2010 it was awarded The World’s Best Single Malt by the World Whiskies Awards.  It is an intense, non-chill-filtered whisky with flavours of peat and pepper.  It is aged in virgin French Limousin oak.  At 57.1 percent ABV, Ardbeg makes a great option for a slow sipping Scotch, full of flavour and punch.  It tastes of rich, peaty tobacco with a medicinal herbaceous quality with hints of sweet spice and citrus peel.

4. The Macallan Double Cask 18 Years Old ($470.00 CDN)

Although rather pricy, the experts agree that The Macallan Double Cask 18 Years Old is one of the best luxury Scotch whiskies.  It is aged in oloroso-seasoned American and European oak casks.   There are aromas of golden raisins, ginger, caramel and orange and tastes of dried fruit, citrus and nuts.  The finish is warm with hints of oak spice, ginger and sweet orange.

5. Lagavulin 16-Year-Old ($175.95 CDN)

If you’re looking for a Scotch that’s both high quality and available at most liquor stores, including mine in Gananoque, ON, Lagavulin 16-Year-Old is a good one.  It is one of my personal favourites.  I will always be grateful for having been introduced to it by my wife’s uncle during a trip to Islay several years ago.

Reviewers love this Scotch for its well-balanced, yet complex flavours.  Earth and smoke define its profile, as well as an attractive array of fruit, light caramel and vanilla flavours. Spice lingers on its finish, leaving smoke behind as a pleasant and surprisingly subtle afterthought.

All the best for the New Year.

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The Experts’ List of Underrated Wine Regions

Most wine enthusiasts are familiar with international wine regions such as France’s Bordeaux, California’s Napa Valley or Italy’s Tuscany.  However, there are many other, lesser-known regions, each offering its own unique characteristics.  These regions offer not only good wine but fewer crowds and opportunities to discover places less travelled.  My list is not intended to be all-encompassing; it is merely a list of regions that I have found intriguing for one reason or another.  The regions are presented in alphabetical order by country.

Pedernal Valley, Argentina

Located in the shadow of the Andes mountains, Argentina’s wine country is spectacular.  Situated north of the famous Mendoza region is the lesser-known Pedernal Valley. It is felt that the Pedernal Valley can stand on its own merits as a premium wine region. The region’s Malbec is considered world-class and distinct and represents a unique style.

Mendocino County, California, United States

Mendocino County grows less than four percent of California’s grape yield but contains an impressive one-third of the state’s certified organic vineyards. The number of old vines, post-WWII plantings makes this region unique. Some of the best wineries in California source their grapes from Mendocino. Dry-farming practices were introduced to the region by Italian families in the early 1900s, which resulted in wines that are concentrated, balanced and distinctly Californian.

Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, Canada

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Canada’s own Okanagan Valley is considered breathtaking as it is situated between two mountain ranges and contains glacial lakes and rolling hills of vineyards. The region produces world-class wines that are difficult to find outside of Canada.  The high-quality wines combined with the beautiful views of the region have attracted top winemakers from France, New Zealand and South Africa.

Chinon, Bugey and Savoie, France

There are three lesser-known regions in France.  Chinon is in the Loire Valley.  It is much less popular than its neighbours, Bordeaux and Burgundy. The Loire Valley is famous for its white Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumés. The red variety is Cabernet Franc.

The wine regions of Savoie and nearby Bugey are nestled in the French Alps and are home to great wines and hospitality. Savoie has both a ski and hiking industry and thus there are quality restaurants, wine bars and a wide range of accommodations.  The vineyards are spread throughout the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes overlooking both the mountain ranges and fresh bodies of water.

Bugey is situated underneath the alps. There is a group of small producers that have either relocated from other parts of France or are new vintners who are focused on raising the profile of the region.

The Republic of Georgia

Georgia is the world’s oldest continuously producing wine region but it is one of the lesser known.  This is due to The Republic formerly being under the control of the former Soviet Union.   During that time only four grape varieties of the over 500 available were allowed in production. After gaining independence, Georgia rediscovered its wine culture and began sharing it with the world. Traditional Georgia wine production is unique, resulting in the production of some exceptionally distinctive wines.  The wines are produced in underground amphorae called Qvevri.

For additional information about the wines and the region, see my posts The Wines of European Georgia from February 6, 2021 and Traditional Georgian Wine from September 18, 2021.

Szekszárd, Hungary

The Szekszárd wine region is located about 160 kilometres south of Budapest. Not many tourists explore beyond Budapest since the region has not been marketed. However, it is one of the country’s oldest wine regions, dating back around 2000 years.  Wine production is small and the wineries are often family-owned, which equates to limited exports and less awareness about the region.

The region has a wide range wine styles.  The most popular variety is the Kékfrankos grape (aka Blaufränkisch) which produces a tannic and spicy style of wine. There’s also Kadarka grapes which creates a fresh acid red fruit that is meant to be enjoyed without aging.


Mexico’s wine history dates back to the1600s but the region remains a virtual unknown for many wine enthusiasts. Although wine grapes have been cultivated there for 400 years, it has only been during the past several decades that there has been a renewed focus on premium and terroir-driven expressions.

Valle de Guadalupe’s boutique wineries are experimenting with a mix of European red grapes such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Nebbiolo and Tempranillo.  The varietals are often blended to create a Bordeaux style of wine.

Middleburg, Virginia, United States

California, Oregon, Washington and New York dominate the U.S. wine industry but there are other regions worth noting.  One of these is Middleburg, Virginia.  Virginia was one of the first places in America to produce wine but it is still a relative unknown. The wine industry there is mostly made up of small artisanal producers who are creating world-class wines.  Some think of the region as a crossroads between Napa Valley and Bordeaux.  The region is situated in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains an hour outside Washington DC.

Final Thoughts

There are many lesser-known wine regions to be explored, either by visiting or merely by sampling the wines they produce.  By expanding our horizons and creating new experiences, we will ultimately find more wines to enjoy.

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