Executive wine editor Ray Isle says you actually have quite a few options.
July 27, 2020
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Over the past several months, pizza has been a staple of our diets—both delivery, on nights when we’re sick of cooking, and homemade, on nights when we need something, anything to distract us from the gloom of reality. At the Food & Wine Classic at Home, the first-ever digital version of the annual culinary festival, our executive wine and spirits editor Ray Isle demonstrated how to make pizza a little more exciting: by pairing it with the perfect wine.
It turns out, there is more than one perfect pairing. Isle selected three wines for attendees to sip at home (you can still buy the wines here). The wines, which include a sparkling rosé, a Pinot Noir, and a Chianti, are vastly different in character and flavor, yet all worked beautifully with Isle’s pepperoni pie, proving one of his main points: there are many different ways to make a wine pairing. It all depends on which element you want to play off of—the butterfat of the cheese, the spice of the pepperoni, the overall saltiness, etc.
“I think people get into this rut where they think only one thing can go with a food,” Isle said. “So I picked three quite different wines that I think go quite well with pizza.”
One of the only mistakes you can make? Taking the choice too seriously. “Some wines really do taste better with some foods, and some wines don’t taste as good. But you can way overthink things.”
Here are three wines that Isle paired with his pizza, and why they work so well:
Bisol Jeio Cuvée Rose
Why It Works: “It’s dry but not super bone dry. It’s fruity. It’s got this beautiful strawberry and sweet citrus. It reminds me of fresh oranges … Sparkling wine tends to have a little bit of acidity and tartness. And the salt from the pizza—the way it works in your mouth, it actually pulls back on the acidity of the wine and lets the fruit come forward.”
While it may not be intuitive, you could really pair pizza with any kind of bubbles. As Isle said, “Never discount the power of bubbles. They make everything taste great.”
Ponzi Tavola Pinot Noir
Why It Works: “You can tell it amplifies different things than the sparkling wine does. When you take a sip of the wine, the fruit in it really pops. The spiciness of the pepperoni plays well with the pepperiness in the pinot.”
From Oregon’s Willamette Valley, the bottle proves a point sommeliers have made again and again: Pinot is “the ultimate pair-with-anything grape.”
Tenuta di Nozzole Chianti Classico Riserva
Why It Works: “‘What grows together, goes together.’ The wines of a region play really well with the foods of a region. The first thing you notice, it bites down on your tongue. Its got real tannic structure. It goes really beautifully with the fat.”
While pizza isn’t from Tuscany, per se, “they’re more akin to each other than Houston where I grew up,” said Isle. This is his favorite pairing of the bunch.
“I don’t know if that’s a romantic thing, or metaphorical thing, or if because I think the tannins and fat work well together,” he said.