The combination of pizza and Chianti has got to be up there in the annals of all-time best food-and-wine pairings (at least in terms of ubiquity). But if you, as a modern-day wine drinker, have moved well past that now somewhat-trite match up, you're probably wondering what to pour with all the tasty pies that fall and football season simultaneously seem to conjure up.
The de facto analysis might point you to Italy, which is where the majority of peeps agree the original pizza was born and represents the choice most clearly aligned with classic food-and-wine-pairing guidelines. Yet if you were to evaluate the pizza in its deconstructed form, you'd be faced with three distinct components upon which to base your pairing presumptions: the crust, the sauce and the toppings. Given those fundamentals, the pairing options may appear limitless. But reaching for a wine that seems an ideal fit for one component might just prove fatal when that very same vino is confronted with another. Get ready to push the proverbial wine-pairing envelope with these unique yet pizza-perfect picks:
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1. Vietti Moscato d'Asti Cascinetta 2009 ($14): It's official -- sparkling wines are pretty much ideal with almost any dish. You might be thinking that moscato d'astis, the gorgeous, fruity sparklers from the Piedmont region of Italy are a mite too sweet to pair with pizza. But imagine a pie topped with a basil-packed pesto and creamy burrata cheese instead of the standard mozzarella, and suddenly the clean, stone fruit-based flavors and crisp acidity in this wine become completely appropriate -- and, better yet, utterly delish.
2. Pedro Romero Manzanilla Aurora ($12, 500 ml): Your reaction to the inclusion of a bone-dry, fino sherry on a list of ideal pizza wines is probably hovering somewhere near the intersection of 'You've gotta be kidding me' and 'WTF?' But before you get all cattywampus about it, remember that pizza ain't nothin' but a step-cousin to tapas, the quintessential food for pairing with sherry. Like the original tapa (a piece of bread or meat used as an insect-repelling cover for a glass of sherry), almost any pizza -- especially one topped with seafood or shellfish -- will get along like a house on fire with the classic sharp, tangy flavors found in this wine.
3. Domaine Dupeuble Beaujolais 2008 ($15): Such a misunderstood wine, Beaujolais. It's true that plenty of Beaujolais nouveaux are veritably undrinkable. Yet there's no need to cast a pall upon the entire region, is there? Beaujolais's low tannic structure, light body and juicy acidity makes it lovely to drink with pizzas, and this lovely bottle hits all its marks. Plus, what's not to love about the mash-up of dried strawberry and cherry flavors and porky-salty toppings like pepperoni or Italian sausage? Not one damn thing.
4. Cataldi Madonna Montepulciano d'Abruzzo 2008 ($17): Let's say you're not feeling quite brave enough to tackle the slightly more risqué pairings recommended above. Considerably closer in spirit to the straightforward, sangiovese-based stylings found in youthful Chiantis are the montepulcianos of Italy's Abruzzo region. Like its pizza-friendly cousin to the north, this wine is effortlessly drinkable, with its red berry fruit and delightful violet undertones. Pour a glass with a pizza of any stripe -- be it a purist's slice of cheese, or a meat-lover's fantasy -- and feel the love.