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We may have food down cold, but wine? This is where we'll conquer it. Join us; we don't want to drink alone.
Today: When it comes to pizza night, you're going to need some sparkle.
There are times when a wine writer needs to face facts. Writing about what to drink with pizza is one of those times. Because here’s the thing: The absolute best thing to drink with pizza is…beer.
What do Italians -- those inventors of what we know and love about pizza -- drink when they’re having a slice or two? The answer, most often, is beer.
Partly that’s due to the enormous popularity in Italy right now of microbeers and the natural beer movement. But beer has been the preferred pairing of choice in Italy long before this trend took hold, and there are two reasons for that -- both of which actually have nothing to do with taste or flavor or food pairing. It has to do with metabolism and digestion, says Jeremy Parzen, an Italian wine and food historian.
Parzen points out that pizza in Italy is generally consumed at dinnertime, and it's avoided at lunch because the heavy dairy component is considered a metabolic challenge. “That's why beer and Coke (yes, Coke) are the preferred pairings: because Italians believe, and rightly so, that sparkling beverages aid in digestion,” he says.
The best thing to pair with pizza, then, is carbonation. Recommendations of what beer to drink with pizza vary widely, ranging from a sweet pilsner (to match with the bready crust and sweet dried tomatoes) to an IPA (to highlight spicy Italian sausage and chili flakes). Which beer you drink, however, seems to matter less than that you drink beer with your pizza.
More: Have a few bottles leftover? Turn your beer into dessert.
But carbonation is also a component of different styles of wine and, as Parzen points out, there is actually a tradition in different parts of Italy to pair pizza with mildly carbonated (or sparkling) wines. In the Veneto region of northeastern Italy, for example, you’ll find Prosecco paired with pizza. In Naples -- where pizza as we know it first appeared -- it's all about Gragnano and Lettere, gently sparkling wines made mostly from Piedirosso grapes. To follow suit, look for the 2012 Cantine Federiciane Monteleone Penisola Sorrentina Gragnano or its “sister wine,” the 2012 Cantine Federiciane Lettere.
If bubbles aren't your thing, Maximilian Kast, wine director at Fearrington Village in Pittsboro, North Carolina, suggests Dolcetto, a grape that’s widely grown in the Piedmont region of northwest Italy. Dolcettos have a lower acidity, more fruit, and are often drunk within a year or two of their release. Kast likes Dolcetto because it’s “refreshing” with pizza, and the wine itself isn’t overly complex. Next time you're at the wine store, keep your eyes out for Dolcetto di Dogliani.
What do you like to drink with your pizza? Tell us in the comments!
Photos by James Ransom