Just the mere mention of the words “pizza night” is enough to make me smile. Whether enjoyed in or out, homemade or bought, this Italian icon of deliciousness is the epitome of laid-back dining and a treat that, with so many toppings to choose from, can accommodate pretty much any palate.
When thinking about wine and pizza pairings, this versatility means that a wide array of styles are fair game, so, let’s talk about some of the best combinations to make that hot slice even more enjoyable…
Let’s start with the basics
While pizzas can be Margherita-simple or become a multi-topping, beautiful hot mess, there are two prominent flavours that will feature on them most of the time: tomatoes and cheese. The juicy fruit (it always feels weird to refer to tomatoes as a fruit, but that’s what they are!) is notorious for its acidity so, very big and tannic reds might come across as a little too aggressive when tasted along.
Adding cheese (literally!) on top of that, you have to get a wine that’s capable of cutting through the fat, leaving your palate fresh and ready for another bite. A moderate acidity will not only accomplish this, but will make sure the wine’s flavours stand their ground and are not washed away by tomato’s own character. Light or medium bodied reds with little or no ageing are normally a safe place to start, think Valpolicella, Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, Beaujolais, young Rioja or a cheerful Portuguese blend.
Meat Lovers Tipples
If you like your pizza with pepperoni, chorizo, bacon or Parma ham (feel free to change that “or” for an “and”), let your wine selection bulk up to have strength to keep up with the meaty additions. Turn the volume up on the tannins and be open to bottles with some age. You don’t want to go Gran Reserva either, but a gentle oak character will flatter the smoky and savoury notes of cured meats.
A vibrant Chianti will be a sharp sidekick, great to enhance the umami flavours of ham and cut through the fat. If you rather a frutier wine that still has big muscles, you can stay in Italy and go Primitivo or opt for another meat-lover’s favourite, good ol’ Malbec.
If you’ve a taste for spicier meats, a Shiraz could also be the wine for you, as on one hand, its ripe fruit will mellow the heat, while its own spiciness will enhance the overall experience.
If you crave something greener on top of your pizza, ask yourself: what are the main flavour characteristics of the veggie am going for? Let the answer guide your wine choice.
Mushrooms, for example, are earthy and hearty, almost meaty. Let a Pinot Noir accompany them if they’re the main attraction on your slice.
If you’re going for a vegetarian pizza with plenty of onions and bell peppers you can lean on a white wine for a change. If you’re feeling experimental, try an aged Sauvignon Blanc, with its distinctive balance between tartness and toast, it will compliment your plate. Another enjoyable match would be with a slightly oaked Chardonnay, think classic California.
Love them or Hate Them
Anchovies are a bit of a divisive topping. Their concentrated fishiness is as pleasant for some as it’s unpalatable for others. If you’re team anchovy, my first instinct would be to say grab a beer, ideally a crisp icy lager, as their intense saltiness would otherwise call for a wine with high acidity which might ultimately crash with the rest of the flavours in your pizza.
However, if wine’s what you wish, there’s no reason why you can’t treat yourself to a zesty glass of Grüner Veltliner, Albariño or Assyrtiko.
And speaking of controversial pizza toppings. How do you feel about Hawaiian pizza?…
If you rolled your eyes, jump to the next paragraph but if your mouth is watering as you visualise the crispy ham and the golden bits of baked pineapple, you’re not alone, it is one of my guilty food pleasures and as such, I’ll suggest another one to accompany it with: off dry Riesling, with just that hint of sweetness to wrap the saltiness of the ham yet acidic enough to cut through its fat while nicely blending simultaneously with the flavours of the fruit. Haters gonna hate.
If you’re planning to go out for pizza and wine, there are plenty of places in Dublin that will satisfy your craving such as Gaillot et Gray, The Yarn, Pizza + Booze, Bagots Hutton, Osteria Lucio, Nolita and Forno 500, to name a few. But if you’re looking to add Netflix to the pairing and make it a relaxed night in, check out a few bottles to try below…
Antichello Valpolicella DOC
€13.95 – Available at Little Italy
This juicy and friendly Italian is a go-to red for happy pizza nights. It’s a blend of classic regional varieties (70% Corvina, 20% Rondinella and 10% Corvinone) and and unaged, fruity wine that has a moderate acidity and a medium body.
Expect soft tannins and plenty of summer fruits, ripe cherries, cranberries and plums.
This is an uncomplicated red that will prove to be a versatile companion for pizzas!
Piuma Montepulciano d’Abruzzo
12.95 – Available at O’Briens Wine
This well-rounded and easy going red is a crowd pleasing pizza-loving explosion of fruit in your palate. Smooth and velvety, its plump body delivers a parade of ripe, red and black fruit with medium tannins and acidity.
One to have by your side while sharing a Margherita pizza or a slice with a bit of meat, without being too heavy. Because it’s very versatile, it would also be a good choice when ordering several different combinations.
Finca Las Moras Love Malbec
€12 – Available at Tesco, Jus de Vine, Ardkeen Quality Food Store
This intense red comes from the Argentinian region of San Juan, second only to Mendoza in wine production in this country. Aged for 9 months in a combination of French and American oak barrels, it shows a pleasant balance between ripe blackberries, toasted cocoa and sweet spices.
This will be a lovely complement for a meaty pizza, as it has a moderate acidity and freshness of fruit, but its smooth tannins and spicy edge will linger pleasantly on your palate.
Geil Riesling, Rheinhessen
€17.95 – Available at Martin’s Off Licence, Baggot Street Wines, Jus de Vine, La Touche Wines
This aromatic beauty comes from the German region of Rheinhessen and offers a delightful combination of floral and fruity notes. Apple blossom meets white peaches, ripe lemons and nectarines.
The acidity is higher than what its mellow perfume suggests, but it is balanced out by the ripeness of the white fruit.
If you’re into pineapple in your pizza, this is one to try.
€14.95 – Available at Green Man Wines, Baggot Street Wines, Le Caveau
This vibrant, youthful Rioja is lighter than many of its peers, in fact it feels closer to a Beaujolais in structure. Without any oak, this organic Tempranillo lets the red fruit take the spotlight, think big red cherries just at the perfect level of ripeness. Close behind, a subtle earthy character follows, with a delicate floral note in the background.
Get it along a pizza that combines mushrooms with a little bit of meat and you won’t be disappointed.
Gabriela’s passion for writing is only matched by her love for food and wine. Journalist, confectioner and sommelier, she fell in love with Ireland years ago and moved from Venezuela to Dublin in 2014.
Since then, she has written about and worked in the local food scene, and she’s determined to discover and share the different traditions, flavours and places that have led Irish food and drink to fascinate her.