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