So you have pizza night on the regular and now you need bottle of wine to go with that meat-lover’s number. Over the years I’ve found a number of tried-and-trusted wine styles that have stood the test of time as perfect pizza partners. Here are seven to know!
Red or White?
Traditionally pizza means a thin, crispy dough base with two key ingredients: tomato sauce and melted cheese. The best wines for pizza take into consideration these ingredients. While fuller-bodied white wines, and even Champagne or sparkling wine, can be delicious with the right pizza, in general you are looking at a red wine. Pizza, regardless of topping, is always fairly earthy and substantial fare that prefers red over white.
High Acidity + Moderate Tannin
Color decided, next thing to take into account is the fat in the melted cheese. To contrast this, you need a wine with medium-high to high acidity. Then the tomatoes. Because tomatoes are high in acidity, you need a fairly high-acid wine. Avoid reds that are high in tannin, as the combination of the tomato flavor and lots of tannin can be quite metallic.
I also like the wine to have plenty of juicy fruit flavors, as well as a savory/earthy dimension, to help bring out the flavors not just in the toppings but also from the crispy dough base.
Italy: The Motherland of Pizza Wines
It is no surprise that the source of some of the best pizza wines is also the home of pizza. Italian red wines are noted for their high acidity. Given the unparalleled number of grape varieties grown in Italy, and the amount of tomato-based dishes they eat, it is easy to find an array of red wines that are moderate on the tannin front.
But it would be unfair (and too easy) to only consider Italy when sourcing a good pizza wine, so I have spread my wings and looked further afield.
7 Great Wines to Drink with Pizza
While not exhaustive, in my opinion the following wines will pair well with any pizza.
1. Barbera d’Asti or Barbera d’Alba, Piedmont: Italy
Barbera is the first wine that comes to mind when I think of pizza. From Piedmont in Northern Italy, Alba and Asti are two communes that are demarcated for Barbera. Barbera is noted for its high acidity and low tannin. Barbera wines are very juicy and packed with cherry-berry flavors. Go for the simpler, fruity unoaked versions.
I can’t agree more that Barbera is perfect pizza wine. It’s almost always my pick, which makes it quite easy to shop for my weekly homemade pizza night. The simplicity of the wine means it can work with pretty much all of your favorite toppings and since it’s medium bodied, with low tannins and just enough juiciness to keep you going back for another sip, it won’t overpower dinner. Not to mention, it’s easy to find and reasonably priced.
– Sheela, Assistant Food Editor
2. Ceresuolo di Vittoria DOCG, Sicily: Italy
Sicily is a much-overlooked region when it comes to quality wine. It is the source of this lively, fruity red made from a blend of Nero d’Avola and Frappato. Frappato, the lighter of the two grapes, adds brightness, lightness, and perfume as well as a savory gamey note.
3. Chianti DOCG, Tuscany: Italy
No need to aim for the weightier Classico style — just straight-up, straightforward Chianti is a natural pizza partner. Made from Sangiovese, simple Chianti is less concentrated and less tannic than its Classico big brother. Typically unoaked or very lightly oaked, the wines tend to be juicier and lighter-bodied — perfect with your pizza.
4. Beaujolais Villages or Mâcon Rouge: France
While I could easily stay in Italy, with so many pizza-friendly wines, I am veering west to France and specifically to the Gamay grape. Beaujolais, the Macon, and Anjou (Loire) are great sources of fresh, light-to-medium-bodied, fruity Gamay wines. Gamay wines also have a delicious earthiness, which is another plus when eating pizza.
5. Blaufranckish: Austria
Don’t let the name turn you off. Over the past five or so years, Austria has been making great strides with its red wines. Blaufranckish, an indigenous black variety, is all about the fruit — bramble fruit, black cherries, and plums — with sufficient but supple tannins. It is a recent addition to my list of pizza wines.
6. Zinfandel, California: United States
Across the Atlantic and the United States to California, you’ll find our much-loved Zinfandel. However, a caveat: Avoid the blockbuster, full-bodied, heavily extracted (and expensive) styles when having pizza. Instead look for the fruitier, unoaked (or lightly oaked), medium-bodied wines. Simple Zinfandel at its best is juicy, only moderately tannic, and packed with wild and juicy blue, black, and red fruits.
7. Lambrusco, Emilia-Romagna: Italy
I just have to add one more to the list. This sparkling red wine might not be the first thing that comes to mind when you’re thinking of what to drink with pizza, but it really should be. The bubbles help clear your mouth of all that cheesy richness that generally comes with pizza, and since it’s served chilled it’s also welcomingly refreshing. Just be sure to go with a bottle that’s made in the dry (secco) style. – Sheela, Assistant Food Editor