Best wine with pizza: All-rounders
- Nero d’Avola
Pizza is one of Italy’s great culinary gifts to the world, and traditional pizza-twirling in Naples was recently enshrined by UNESCO as a skill of intangible cultural heritage.
Beer is sometimes seen as a classic go-to for pizza night, but there are many mouthwatering wines that can work brilliantly with a range of toppings if you’re planning to celebrate ‘the art of the pizzaiuolo’.
Wine and pizza pairing: The basics
For a classic, wood-fired Napoletana pizza with tomato, mozzarella and simple toppings then think about a wine with good acidity and lots of bright fruit that will balance nicely against the acidity of the tomato.
If you’re keen to go for Italian reds, then that could be Barbera d’Asti, light styles of Sangiovese or even Frappato from Sicily.
You could also consider Gamay, either from Beaujolais or from other corners of the wine world, such as Oregon or Stellenbosch.
Pizza sets a relaxed tone and pairings can work best if you pick a wine ‘that isn’t trying too hard’, according to Helen Johannesen, a sommelier who runs the ‘Helen’s’ wine shop joined to Los Angeles pizza emporium Jon & Vinny’s.
‘I love pairing lighter reds like Gamay, rosé made from interesting varietals like Montepulciano, and even skin-contact wines (aka orange wines),’ she told Decanter.com in 2019.
‘Obviously you can ball out with some killer Barolo or lusciously rustic Rosso di Montepulciano, but I think the ease and comfort might be lost.’
Be mindful that bold tannins in wine and acidity in food can clash, as Matthieu Longuère MS points out in a different context in this Decanter article on matching red wine and fish.
Prosecco: Sparkling wine with pizza?
‘I enjoy bubbles with pizza,’ said Emily O’Hare, sommelier, wine writer and Decanter contributor based in Siena, Tuscany.
‘Col fondo Prosecco works a treat,’ she said, suggesting Malibran and Ca’ dei Zago as producers to look out for.
O’Hare, who also runs retreats and courses accredited by the Wine & Spirit Education Trust, added, ‘Pizza is chewy (the dough) and creamy (the cheese) and topped with acid (the tomato sauce), so something crisp and textured and savoury makes the combination so refreshing.
‘It’s important to feel refreshed so as to keep on going with the eating.’
Wine with pepperoni or sausage pizza
A spicier topping such as pepperoni will dominate the pizza’s flavour and may be able to handle a wine with a bit more attitude.
A juicy Grenache/Syrah blend could be great, but watch out for too much tannin and oak.
In Tuscany, O’Hare said, ‘If I stayed regional and red I’d look for a young Chianti or Chianti Classico Annata and put it in the fridge or outside to chill, and I’d go for a pizza with sausage meat to handle the more tannic wine choice.’
Fruit-driven styles of Nero d’Avola, particularly from Sicily, have become a mainstay on several pizzeria wine lists in the UK and have the weight to pair with meat-based pizzas – although some poorer-made examples can lack balance, especially if served too warm.
Wine with pineapple pizza
Adding pineapple to pizza is a controversial topic, as Iceland’s president discovered in 2017.
But if you’re a fan then you could look to white wines with good acidity and enough body to hand the flavours. This Fiano from Australia’s Riverina region in New South Wales could be interesting, for example.
‘White’ pizza with ricotta or mushroom
White pizzas change the nature of the pairing, because the acidity of the tomato is no longer such an issue.
Fresh, dry white wines can work a treat. ‘I love having our ‘white lightning’ pizza, with pickled jalapeños & ricotta, with white wines grown in the volcanic soils of Sicily or Campania,’ said Johannesen.
It doesn’t have to be white wine, however. ‘My favourite pizza we make is the ‘super shroom’, that is a mushroom pie highlighted by rachera cheese,’ said Johannesen.
‘It’s drops a slightly funky beat, begging for some high acid Carignan or Zinfandel, or even a pet nat rosé with a tiny touch of residual sugar.’
Wine with pizza and lots of garlic
Garlic can be a very strong flavour. If you’re combining this with basil on a pizza, how about experimenting with skin-contact white wines, such as those made from Vermentino? They would ordinarily match up well with green pesto.
With so many toppings involved, wine and pizza can be a great avenue to explore and experiment with new pairing ideas.
If you’re looking for some of the basics on food and wine matching, refresh yourself on Karen McNeil’s 10 rules of food and wine pairing.
Best wine with pizza: Ideas for wines to look for
This article was first published in 2019 and has been updated in February 2021, including with new wine reviews and extra comments from Emily O’Hare.