Food and wine pairing is a subject on which your customers are growing increasingly educated thanks to today’s ever-present cooking shows on TV. There is far greater awareness of the role of the restaurant sommelier and how certain wines can complement particular cuisine styles and individual food flavours.
When it comes to pizza, there’s such a wide variety of toppings and styles that at first glance it may seem difficult if not impossible to recommend particular wine choices. However, it is possible to make some reasonable generalisations based on the key ingredients (tomato, cheese) that are common to most pizzas. So here are some guidelines to get you started:
Tomato based sauces are typically high in acidity and one way to complement this is by choosing a wine with distinctive bright fruit flavours. Italian wines are of course a great choice to complement Italian influenced cuisine — for pizza you can go with a Sangiovese, which is well known for its fruity tones such as cherry and plum.
Zinfandel is a traditional pizza accompaniment and can still be found in on tabletops in straw-covered bottles at many pizza restaurants particularly in the US. It’s a rustic wine with good acidity which helps balance the weight of the cheese.
Chardonnay and Chianti are also popular wine choices for pizza. And a good Cabernet Sauvignon or Sauvignon Blanc can often be an excellent accompaniment to the richer pizza especially with hot pepperoni or similar topping.
Pinot noir is a good choice to accompany mushrooms, so bear this in mind when recommending wine for a pizza laden with mushroom topping. Pinot Grigio is also appropriate.
For the traditional Hawaiian pizza, Riesling is a choice that many recommend.
And for those customers who want to be a little adventurous, you could always recommend an Italian Barolo or Barbera d’Alba — these wines have subtle spice notes that really work well with your richer pizza flavours.
The main thing to remember is that the acidity of your tomato base needs to be matched with a wine with sufficient acidity to hold up against the tomato flavour and balance against the cheese.