How to Pair Pizza and Wine

Wine claims a piece of the pie as a delicious companion to pizza—whether you prefer classic or “gourmet” style
Wine is a delicious companion with pizza

Adobe/Maksim Shebeko

When celebrated chef Wolfgang Puck introduced “gourmet” pizza topped with smoked salmon and caviar at his Los Angeles restaurant, Spago, in the 1980s, even the upper crust took notice. Pizza rose in status from merely a food for cardboard box presentation to an acceptable menu item at white linen establishments. And wine certainly fits the bill as a delicious companion to not only the “elevated” gourmet pie but also with any toppings you prefer, whether you’re going out on the town or you’re cardboard-boxing it at home. Both red and white wines can be delicious matches with the trendy or traditional pie—the key is to either counterbalance or complement the dominant flavors of the toppings and sauce.

I had asked Karen Page and her husband, Andrew Dornenburg, James Beard Award-winning co-authors of What to Drink with What You Eat and The Flavor Bible to help dish up some wine pairing ideas to go with a variety of pizza toppings, and their What to Drink with What You Eat book offers more ideas.

Whether kicking back with a traditional pizza on a weeknight or raising a glass to the weekend with a gourmet pizza pie, your favorite wines—both red and white—match like amore.

Classic Pepperoni

The classic pizza with tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese topped with pepperoni calls for wine with lower acidity levels since the tomato sauce is acidic on its own.

Red: A wine that is also fruit-forward works well with the tomato’s sugar and acid combination. Italy’s Chianti, made from the Sangiovese grape, is a classic match for this pizza, as are California’s wines made with this grape. Cabernet Sauvignon can stand up to the pepperoni but won’t overwhelm the cheese, and it also works well if mushrooms are added to the mix. The light acidity of Beaujolais can counterbalance the rich cheesiness as well as the spice.

White: If you prefer white wine, try Pinot Grigio or Pinot Gris, which can refresh after the pepperoni’s spiciness. Herbaceous Sauvignon Blanc can also work well. If you want some bubbles, Prosecco, the fruity yet dry lightly sparkling white wine from Italy balances the tang of tomato and also cleanses the palate after the cheese component.

Meat Medley and Veggies

Like a flavorful medley of ingredients such as pepperoni, sausage, and bell peppers atop pizza? Then you might want to try Salice Salentino. Made with the Negroamaro grape, this is usually a heavy spicy Italian wine that may overwhelm a plain pizza, but it is big enough to tackle this flavorful combination. California Zinfandel or Aussie Shiraz’s zip complement hearty sausage and earthy mushrooms.

White: And if you want a white wine, a full-bodied toasty Chardonnay can stand up to the sauce and the richness of the cheese plus sausage, mushroom, and the sweetness of onions.

Vegetarian and Hawaiian

A pizza topped with green pepper, black olives, mushrooms, and onions won’t be overpowered by Pinot Noir—plus the wine’s earthiness synchronizes with the mushrooms. The herbaceous quality of Sauvignon Blanc nicely matches the green pepper and mushrooms, and is also a good choice for a pineapple and Canadian bacon pizza. It harmonizes with the pineapple and offers a good balance with the savory ham and cheese. An off-dry Riesling will also do the trick. And Beaujolais’ fruity quality is a tasty companion with the pineapple.

“White” and Gourmet Pie

Nontraditional or “white” pizza, made without tomato sauce, has a milder flavor base and opens up more unusual topping options—and the wines to go with them. Such items as chicken, oysters, sprouts, eggplant, Cajun shrimp, artichoke hearts, or even venison and duck may find their way atop trendy pies these days. And even some of the larger chain pizza delivery restaurants feature chicken, spinach, and various other alternative toppings.

Try an Alsatian Pinot Gris or an Austrian Grüner Veltliner with artichoke or asparagus-topped pie. Sparkling wine, Sauvignon Blanc, and Pinot Grigio also work well with these “designer” discs. And pizza and Champagne? Give it a try—the yeastiness and effervescence make a good team and work well with pizza’s saltiness.

 

Thirsty for More?

Want to sip, swirl and savor delicious wine and food? Check out Minnesota Monthly‘s Food and Wine Experience March 4, 5 and 6, 2022 at Target Field. For more information and tickets, click here.

Hungry for More?

Check out these recipe ideas to make your own pizza or tips for pairing wine with cheese.

Kimchi and Gruyère Pizza Recipe
Step up your pizza game with outside-the-box homemade pie

Deep Dish Sausage and Mushroom Pie Recipe
Get a helping hand in the kitchen with ready-made dough and whip up your own nearly double-decker pizza

Rapini and Feta Pizza with Red Peppers Recipe
This easy, veggie pizza is just the call to mix in a fresh dose of greens

Salad Pizza with Lemon and Lox Recipe
Combine your first course salad and pizza into one dish with this lively contrast of textures and flavors—plus a quick-and-easy crust made from frozen roll dough

Cooking with Kids: Fresh Pizza Pockets + Taco Night Recipes
Get the whole family helping out in the kitchen with pizza pockets plus taco night

Want Some Cheese with that Wine?
It’s like a happy couple—wine and cheese bring out the best in each other

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Mary Subialka is the editor of Real Food and Drinks magazines, covering the flavorful world of food, wine and spirits. She rarely meets a chicken she doesn’t like, and hopes that her school-age son, who used to eat beets and Indian food, will one day again think of real food as more than a means to a treat—and later share this with his younger brother.