I’ve been hearing people mention “pizza wine” lately, but what does that mean?
In the old days, pizza meant red sauce, mozzarella (and I’m talking cow’s milk here, not buffalo) and maybe mushrooms or pepperoni. A bottle of Chianti in a straw basket was considered the perfect accompaniment.
These days, especially in San Francisco, you don’t have to look to far to find a ricotta-based sauce, four types of cheese from three animal species and anything from barbecued chicken to artichokes loaded on top. Much as I enjoy clams, porcinis and broccoli rabe on my pizza, at heart, I’m a purist. By birth, I’m a New Yorker, and as such, pizza is for me only as good as your thin crust and tomato sauce. While I still think of pizza wine as being Italian, red and cheap, I don’t buy wine with the intention of turning the empty bottle into a candleholder after I’ve consumed its contents. You know what I’m saying?
There are lots of wines that can match traditionally made pizza.
Sure, many come from Italy, and that is often where I go when chowing down on a slice. Pizza sauce may have a tomato base, but it also has herbs, garlic and olive oil that match a lot of the flavors in sangiovese, montepulciano, negroamaro and aglianico, just to name a few grapes grown in “the boot.” That said, merlot can be great with pizza, as can zinfandel and other wines.
Pizza is great for a relaxing weekend, so here are three selections that go well with your favorite slice.
Pizzini Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, 2007 (Abruzzo, Italy): Here is a quintessential pizza wine made from the quintessential pizza wine grape, montepulciano. Earthy and minerally with spiced wood and herbal tones, you can have this with a variety of meat and vegetarian toppings. Suggested retail: $11
Attila Gere Portugieser, 2008 (Villany, Hungary): Despite its name, it has no known Portuguese origins. Also known as blauer portugieser, this grape has been grown in Austria, Germany and Hungary since at least the 18th century. With cayenne pepper and oregano, it actually smells a bit like an Italian restaurant and will match your basic cheese pie splendidly. Suggested retail: $14
Bellevue Tumara Pinotage Reserve, 2003 (Stellenbosch, South Africa): This wine may seem like an oddball, but this pinot noir and cinsault cross can be great with pizza. With a cigar-smoke aroma and a good balance of fruit and oak this great example of pinotage will go especially well with pepperoni. Suggested retail: $17
Pamela S. Busch is the wine director and proprietor of CAV Wine Bar & Kitchen in San Francisco.