It’s one of the world’s most beloved foods – and it deserves the perfect glass of wine to go along with it. Pizza is typically consumed with cheap beer or soda but the right glass of wine can make a simple slice of pizza transcendental in a way beer can’t.
From red tomato sauce pizzas, white pizzas (pizza bianca), and wild toppings (pineapple to mushrooms to clams) we asked top sommeliers and beverage directors how they would pair classic (and not-so-classic) slices of pizza with the perfect glass of wine.
Tomato sauce pizza like margherita pair well with a light red.
For the most classic of all pizzas, pair your red sauce pie with a lighter, fresher red wine (or even a chilled red) suggests Rufio Lerma, beverage director of Rosemary’s Pizza in New York City. Soft reds won’t overpower the simplicity and lightness of tomato and mozzarella. He loves a chilled Schiava from Trentino-Alto Adige, and even the avant-garde red sparkler Lambrusco from Emilia-Romagna works here.
“I’d highly recommend red wines that are made with Italian grapes from Tuscany…and reds from Mt. Etna in Sicily work really well with a marinara or margherita pizza, as well as a pepperoni pizza,” says Grant Reynolds, wine director and partner behind the New York City pizzeria Pasquale Jones.
White pizza like pizza bianca pairs with white wine.
This slice devoid of tomato sauce (it is simply baked crusty pizza dough brushed with olive oil, sea salt and sometimes finished with fresh herbs, garlic or a light sprinkle of shaved Italian cheeses like Parmigiano-Reggiano) naturally lends itself to a vino bianco (white wine) says Lerma. Look for one that for is balanced in acidity and richness, minerality, and floral notes.
Since this type of pizza is widely attributed to the southern Italian region of Campania and Rome, Lerma chooses a Falanghina white wine (of the same region) with its apple, pear and stony minerality.
Heavy cheese pizzas like a quattro fromagio pairs with either a strong white or red.
For those decadent, cheesy pies (like a caciocavallo, aged provolone foundation or quattro formaggio), Lerma suggests a strong white or bold red wine that can stand up to all that richness. Some good bets are Aglianico, Cannonau di Sardegna (a Grenache) or oaked Sangiovese of Tuscany.
Meat or sausage-based pizzas pairs well with a sweet, fresh wine.
Match the greasiness of spicy pepperoni or sausage-based pizza with a fresh cherry and softer tannic red like Langhe Nebbiolo or bolder Barbaresco says Lerma.
Sangiovese, a red wine and one of Italy’s most popular grapes, is another good option says executive chef Edwin Rivera from Bocce Union Square. The nature of the wine is very strong and creates a great balance with the high-fat content of the cured meats says Rivera.
Mushroom pizza goes with a classic red.
Mushrooms can often be quite meaty, so Lerma goes red. “Rosso di Montalcino or Chianti Classico. End of story!” says Lerma.
Hawaiian pizza, for those who like it, pairs with champagne.
For pizzas such as a pineapple-topped Hawaiian pizza, Champagne is a very good option says Reynolds. For those on a budget, sparkling wines from France are a great alternative, particularly a Crémant du Jura or Crémant de Provence.
“Breakfast” pizza with egg goes with rosé.
Pizza with a runny egg and cured meat like guanciale for breakfast is practically a staple on most AM menus now. For this “new wave” of pizza, Lerma goes with either a fizzy Lambrusco rosé or light, coastal rosé.
“Those two wines will pair almost perfectly with any brunch dish, but when it comes to bacon, egg and cheese pizza… you can’t go wrong. I’m suddenly starving just thinking about it!” says Lerma.
Clam pies pair with a smoky white.
This non-conventional pizza tends to pair better with more savoury, smoky white wines.
“My favourites are Chenin Blanc from France and Fiano from Italy,” says Reynolds.
For other types of seafood pizzas, look for white wines that have good acidity and bright minerality.
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