Wine and pizza: Readers talk back!
So many of your comments added substantively to the discussion that I decided to follow up today with a summary. Here are some of the key points that emerged from your responses.
THINK ITALIAN: Many of you, as I do, turn instinctively to Italy for your wine when pizza is on the table. V. Jay Luthra suggested Primitivo, the Southern Italian sibling of the American Zinfandel (and others mentioned Zin in its own right, with its exuberant berrylike fruitiness, as an excellent match with pizza). Lee Nelsen suggested "someone's Italian grandfather's homemade wine," and others nominated Barbera, Dolcetto, Monte Antico, a hearty Sardinian red and a modest Italian-style California red, Coppola Rosso.
THINK BUBBLY: Champagne, say those who love it, goes with anything, and pizza is apparently no exception. A surprising number of you recommended something with bubbles as a fun-and-fizzy match, with variations ranging from the crackling Italian Prosecco to the real thing. "I like Champagne, especially the fuller bodied ones like Moet," Michael Serotta wrote.
THINK ... LAMBRUSCO!? The much maligned "pop" wine, sweet and slightly fizzy, actually works with pizza, several correspondents said. Said one pal who asked to remain anonymous, "Hey, what can I say, it tastes great with pizza. But I do hate become known as the guy that writes in about Riunite Lambrusco." My friend Marco Pecile pointed out that artisanal Lambrusco from Italian villages is a far cry from the mass-market stuff: "Since it seems that mild effervescence may be key to perfecting the pizza experience, I would not be surprised if a good Lambrusco were to do the job."
THINK BEER! Several of you reassured me that there's no embarrassment in quaffing a mug of suds with your pizza. Even the Italians do it, Pecile said: "The 'Pizza e Birra' ('Pizza and beer') rule is favored by most Italians, who consume almost exclusively German-style lager beer in limited quantities and almost only with pizza."
THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX: As with my choice of a Crozes-Hermitage from the Northern Rhone with pizza in yesterday's column, many of you noted that unexpected combinations can offer pleasant surprises, from the 1976 Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon that Marc Kauffman remembered with delight from a long-ago experience to inexpensive Merlots, Argentine Malbec, Chinon from the Loire, and even, pushing the cutting edge, the Canadian Baco Noir suggested by my French-hybrid-loving friend Paul Bulas or Howie Hart's upstate New York rarity, a Lambrusco-like Niagara County "French Concord" blend of Concord and Foch!
THINK ABOUT THE TOPPINGS: Citing no less an authority than the prestigious Culinary Institute of America, John Jarschke recommended pairing the pizza with the wine, rather than the other way around. "So if you were having Pinot Noir, perhaps you would sneak strawberries into the sauce. If serving a Sauvignon Blanc perhaps some peppers would be appropriate. I guess we looked at it in reverse," he said. Good point!
THINK RED, MOSTLY: With the exception of Champagne, virtually every wine suggested was red, and that's probably significant. But Liz Duffey filed a persuasive minority report, offering a tasty tale of a spicy pizza that made a delicious match with an off-dry German Riesling.
Again, many thanks to you all ... I get some of my best ideas from reading the mail.
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Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2002