I have a group of good friends that love wine (thank goodness), and they are gracious enough to hang out with me on the second Thursday of the month so I can test out recipes and wines on them. I know it’s a lot to ask, but they somehow push through and show up each month. They are my “beta testers” and give me most excellent feedback on recipes and on wines I’ve selected for tastings or my wine clubs. This month it started out as “hey, come over and drink this wine with me” which turned into “hey, I have this bottle of Barolo we should try” which then turned into “hey, let’s make pizza and drink Italian wine.” That’s how we roll around here on the second Thursday of the month.
One of my testers is a pizza snob. He’ll argue he isn’t since he’ll eat any pizza but I disagree because I’ll drink any wine at least once and I consider myself a wine snob. However, being a snob does not mean you are an ass-hole. We are not ass-holes, we just know what is good and what is bad. So I was excited to have him over to advise me on my homemade pizza experiment. He’s also the guy with the cool shirt.
Tomato sauce is high in acid, so when planning a pizza and wine night, you need to keep that top of mind. High acid and a medium to low tannin wine work well with tomato dishes such as pizza. For Italian wines, a Chianti is a good bet, but I also like Dolcetto which is Cabernet Franc. And if you want something super fun and bubbly, drink a Lambrusco. But because pizza can have different sauces like a white sauce rather than a red sauce, or someone might go light on the sauce and beef up the toppings, that rule can go out the window in a hurry. So really, try to stay with something a little brighter and away from high tannin wines such as Cabernet.
Hawaiian pizza with sweet pineapple and lots of prosciutto is my usual; I guess that’s from growing up on Pizza Hut. I also prefer a thick crust, so the pie ends up being a doughy, biscuity, sweet and fruity with some salt on the side kind of pizza. That calls for Lambrusco for red, but I also think white wines such as Pinot Grigio or even an Orvieto would be good. If you are having meat lovers pizza on thin crust think Chianti or I’d drink a Montepulciano on a mushroom and black olive pie and the ultimate cheese pizza calls for a Falanghina, full-bodied Chardonnay, or Barolo. But wait, Barolo (Nebbiolo) is high in tannin and acid. I thought you said no tannin with pizza? As I said, the rules aren’t concrete. The tannin breaks through the creaminess and fat of the cheese, so it makes for a great pairing.
Now, for the actual pizza party stuff, this is real life, and I’m not whipping up the dough and milking the cow for the cheese. Everything I bought is from the store either pre-packaged or requires minimal prep. Make a list of the type of pizza’s you are going to have available, then purchase the toppings and pre-packaged dough. I bought my pizza dough in the cold case where you find the Pillsbury rolls and such. I used Kroger brand, and I could get two pizzas per one package. Pepperoni, pineapple, mushrooms, Jimmy Dean sausage, prosciutto, black olives, feta cheese, mozzarella cheese, cheddar cheese, parmesan cheese, arugula, artichokes. You get the idea. Put the toppings in cute little dishes, make labels for pizza ideas and wine pairing suggestions. Everyone makes the pizza and has a great time. I even got the boys to cook their pizzas and clean up!
Everyone brought a bottle of Italian wine to our party and our list consisted of a Pinot Grigio, Dolcetto, two Chianti Classico’s, and a Barolo. We are a highly competitive bunch, and of course, we have a contest. The wine with the most votes at the end of the night wins, and the person who brought the winning bottle goes home with a bottle of wine. You could even assign a region of Italy to each person, so you end up with a wide variety as well. The possibilities are endless! Regardless what you choose, a pizza and wine party is a hands-on, fun, and delicious time!