While it’s true that Chianti—and many other Italian wines—pair wonderfully with pizza, the style characteristics, rather than the country of origin, are the most important considerations when picking the perfect companion for your pie. (In fact, in Italy, the locals usually reach for a beer to wash down their slice.)
You’ve got plenty of options. Look for a wine with a juicy acidity to match the tomato-based sauce and cut the fattiness in the cheese. Other key characteristics: light to medium body, interesting flavors that don’t overpower, and a price that’s not too hard on the wallet.
Sangiovese, the dominant variety in the wines of Chianti, as well as barbera, pinot noir, and tempranillo are just a few of the go-to grapes to look for. But something offbeat can also work. Try a blueberry-laced Austrian Zweigelt or a piedirosso, from an area near Naples, that will taste just like the wines served in the local trattoria.
Whites wines can also work if they have enough body, especially for vegetable or seafood-topped pies. Pinot grigio, like Chianti, usually tops the list but there’s also falanghina—another native of the Naples area—dry or slightly sweet riesling or maybe an aligoté, a lesser-known grape from Burgundy, France. Each can be an interesting match.
Here are some choices from around the globe:
Spain: La Granja de Garrejo Crianza Rioja Alta 2005 ($14.99).
Austria: Weingut Hofer Zweigelt 2008 ($15.99).
Argentina: Jelu Pinot Noir 2007 ($14.99).
Italy: Mustilli Piedirosso 2008 ($18).
USA: Kung Fu Girl Riesling 2008 ($13.99).
Italy: Cantina del Taburno Falanghina 2008 ($13.99).
France: Domaine Nadine et Remi Marcillet Bourgogne Aligoté 2007 ($13.99).
Italy: Marco Cecchini Pinot Grigio 2007 ($14.99).
Check out Sue Guerra’s wine blog, On the Vine, each week at njmonthly.com.
Click on the links below to read more pizza stories from our dining issue: