a selection of pizza-friendly wines.

Finding a wine that goes well with pizza can be an intimidating challenge. What makes the choice of a wine so daunting is that there is no such thing as a “typical” pizza. Pizzas, like people, come with all sorts of personalities and styles. Pizzas may have thin or thick crusts and range from tomato-sauce-laden pies with lots of mozzarella cheese to more ephemeral white pizzas totally devoid of any tomato sauce. And did we mention toppings? Toppings can range from vegetables such as potatoes, roasted peppers, asparagus, tomatoes and garlic to seafood such as shrimp, squid, tuna and anchovies to meats such as pepperoni, ground beef, Canadian bacon and sausage.  That is quite a mélange of possible texture and flavor combinations!

A wine to accompany pizza should have the right balance of acidity, tannin and fruit flavors pizza with red wineto complement a pizza’s individual style and complexity. Traditional wisdom posits that since pizza is casual food usually consumed at informal gatherings, it should be accompanied by uncomplicated, inexpensive wines.  While pizza has a peasant pedigree it is by and large universally enjoyed today and can be found at the tops of menus of some of the country’s best restaurants. And Queen Margherita of Savoy certainly gave a regal boost to the humble pizza’s status after sampling it in Naples in 1889.

There’s really no reason to limit your wine choices when serving pizza to only inexpensive, insipid wines. The simple elegance of a well-made, traditional pizza can complement the finest wines and some of the best pizza-wine matches I’ve experienced have included high-end wines. The key is to make sure that the wines are not too powerful, tannic or oaky.

Since pizza is the quintessential Italian comfort food, an Italian wine would be a natural choice to accompany this most Italian of all foods.

The six Italian wines listed below have different features and characteristics but all are “pizza friendly” and reasonably priced. There’s plenty of good sipping here for less than $20 a bottle.

Feudi di San Gregorio, Falanghina 2007 about $16

“Whoa, dude. A white wine with pizza?” your friends ask, quizzically. This dry, full-bodied, well-structured and complex white wine has bold, white-fruit flavors, lively acidity and a crisp, citric finish that makes it a good match for risottos, pastas, white meat dishes and, yes, pizza as long as it is not too generous with tomato sauce. Falanghina (pronounced fa’ lahn gee’ nah, with a hard “g” as in geezer) is excellent with pizza bianca (garlic, rosemary and olive oil) or pizza pescatore (shrimp, squid and capers).

Where can I buy this wine? – available at Calvert Woodley, the Wine Specialist, Circle Wine and Spirits and Morris Miller.

Seghesio, Dolcetto d’ Alba “Pajana” 2007 about $19

Dolcetto is an often-overlooked wine from the Piedmont region of Italy that delivers bold fruit flavors and soft tannins that accommodates and compliments tomato-based pizzas with flavorful toppings.  This elegant, medium-bodied Dolcetto is made from grapes grown in the hills around Alba and pairs well with pizza margherita (tomatoes, mozzarella di bufala and basil) and pizza quattro stagione (potatoes, asparagus, zucchini and olives).

Where can I buy this wine? – available at Paul’s of Chevy Chase, Cleveland Park Wine and Spirits, Pearson’s, Arrowine, The Wine Specialist, Italian Market (Arlington), Wells Discount Liquors (Baltimore) and other area stores.

Michele Chiarlo, Barbera d’Asti Superiore “Le Orme” 2006 about $15

Barbera With its high acidity and dry, crisp mouth feel is perhaps the most food-friendly of all wines and will complement virtually any pizza. This medium-bodied Barbera is well-balanced with crisp acidity and discreet tannins and is terrific with pizza marinara (tomatoes, garlic, oregano and olive oil).

Where can I buy this wine? – available at Circle Wine and Spirits, Chevy Chase Wine and Spirits, Rodman’s, Montgomery County Liquor stores, Schneiders of Capitol Hill and other area wine shops.

Allegrini, Valpolicella 2007 about $14

This lovely wine is from one of the Veneto’s oldest and most highly-regarded estates. Lean to medium-bodied, soft and round with muted tannins and a touch of spice, it is just the wine to go with pizza alla romana (tomatoes, basil, anchovies, capers and mozzarella).

Where can I buy this wine? – available at Calvert Woodley, The Wine Specialist, Chevy Chase Wine and Spirits, Total Wine and More and Schneiders of Capitol Hill.

Valle Reale, Montepulciano d’Abruzzo “Vigne Nuove” 2008 about $11

The wines of Abruzzo are rarely allotted the attention they deserve. Made from 100 percent Montepulciano d’Abruzzo grapes, this wine is medium-bodied, plush and full of fruit flavors but with sufficient tannins to enable it to hold up to strong food flavors.  A great accompaniment to pizza prosciutto e funghi (tomatoes, prosciutto, mozzarella and mushrooms).

Where can I buy this wine? – widely available in the Washington D.C. area including The Wine Specialist, Calvert Woodley, Whole Foods (P Street, N.W.) and Schneiders of Capitol Hill. 

Di Majo Norante, Sangiovese IGT 2006 about $10

An engaging wine from a reliable producer in Molise which is Italy’s smallest and least-populated region. This is a big wine with plush, juicy, ripe fruit flavors. It also shows substantial acidity and structure so that it will go well with sausage pizza, grilled beef, game – anything that calls for a robust red. Fabulous with pizza soppressata (tomato sauce, sausage, shaved fennel, roasted peppers and parmesan).

Where can I buy this wine? – available at Calvert Woodley, Schneiders of Capitol Hill, Total Wines and More, Wells Discount Liquors (Baltimore) and other area wine shops.

Richard Marcis

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