First published in The Irish Times, Saturday, 14th October, 2017
Who doesn’t like pizza? One of the happiest times in my life was when, as a student, I worked in a branch of Round Table Pizza in California. I was happy, but rapidly gained weight, as a diet of two pizzas a day, every day for a month would count as serious carb-loading today. I declined the offer of a place at its Pizza University, which was probably good for my health. In the restaurant we offered beer (Budweiser) and a choice of three wines – red, white and rosé – all served from a tap linked by pipe to wine kegs out the back.
So what should we drink with our pizza? Beer is good; I tend to go for a lighter IPA or a crisp Pilsner. But most of the time, I drink wine. As a broad rule I tend to prefer light fruity red wines with pizzas that have tomato sauce and/or meats such as salami, sausage and pepperoni. Italian reds tend to be have good acidity and are relatively low in alcohol – perfect for cutting through melted, fatty cheese and matching the acidity of a tomato sauce. Steer clear of red wines with a lot of tannin. This is not really the time for a fine Bordeaux.
Given that the southern parts of Italy are very fond of all sorts of tomato-based dishes, it is not surprising that they have the wines to accompany them. Red wines such as Montepulciano d’Abruzzo and Nero d’Avola both work well. From elsewhere in Italy, an inexpensive Chianti, a Valpolicella or a Barbera from Piemonte share the same fresh juicy character. All of the above are usually fairly inexpensive, €10-€15 a bottle. Outside Italy, an unoaked Rioja or a Beaujolais would do equally well. If I have mushroom pizza, I usually go for an inexpensive Pinot Noir. With a spicy pepperoni, I sometimes leave Italy and go for an Australian Shiraz or a Malbec from Argentina.
White wine can go equally well with some pizza; Chardonnay with a margarita or red peppers, or something lighter with a pizza Bianca (no tomatoes), seafood, goat’s cheese, mozzarella or with fresh Parma ham and rocket. Again, I would instinctively look first to Italy, and Soave, Pinot Grigio, a good Verdicchio, or a white from Campania, such as the Gerco di Tufo below. A dry rosé goes really well with lighter pizza, and is a fantastic match for pissaladière, the Provençal version of pizza.
My own favourite home-made pizza is the umami, made without a tomato sauce but scattered with a few chopped cherry tomatoes and some or all of the following; anchovies (essential), onions, black olives, capers, garlic, roasted peppers, finished with a dusting of Parmesan. With it I usually go straight for a medium-bodied Chianti.
Greco di Tufo 2016, Castellore 13% €9.99
Crisp textured autumnal yellow fruits. Perfect with seafood pizza.
Chianti Colli Senesi 2015, Medici Riccardi 12.5% €9.99
The refreshing light red cherry fruits and good acidity would go nicely with a ham or salami pizza.
Montepulciano d’Abruzzo 2015, La Piuma 13% €12.95
Medium-bodied rounded plums and dark cherries. With a cheese special?
Valpolicella 2016, Alpha Zeta 12.5% €14.99
Instantly pleasing gluggable juicy light red cherry fruits. With a classic Margarita pizza.
Stockists: Callans, Dundalk; Clontarf Wines; Mannings, Cork; The Malt House, Trim; Power & Co, Lucan; Red Island, Skerries; wineonline.ie