Class-Up Your Pizza

Andres Torrez
3 min read
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Pizza and beer is so 2004. Pizza and wine, however, is all the rage in 2005. Some may say this is blasphemy, but wine is perfect for every occasion and every meal (after breakfast, that is). There is no better way to class-up your casual evening with friends than to uncork a great bottle of wine and serve it with pizza. You'll look like a renaissance wine connoisseur.

Pizza can be a difficult dish to match with wine due to its sweet tomato sauce and wide variety of toppings, but in the end there is no better wine to pair with pizza than the Italian food favorite—Sangiovese. It is the backbone of Chianti and in the New World it is gaining popularity as a varietal in its own right. The latest trend in Sangiovese is the Super-Tuscan. Picture Chianti on 'roids. It is Sangiovese amped up in flavor (and price) with Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot. Whether you choose the trendy Super-Tuscan or the classic Chianti, Sangiovese is a wonderfully versatile grape that produces some great wines that can be paired with an equally versatile range of foods, most importantly pizza.

My favorite Super-Tuscan is the 2001 Shafer Firebreak available at Kelly's for around $35. While this bottle of wine may cost more than the pizza, this cutting-edge and trendy blend of 91 percent Sangiovese and nine percent Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley is ripe, round and luscious. With a wonderfully complex nose of fruit and leather, you won't be able to resist. More powerful than what you may expect from a Sangiovese alone, the Cabernet provides this blend with magnificent depth and balance. The rigid tannic structure oozes ripe berry countered by a hefty dose of minerals, tobacco and spice. The aftertaste is somewhat bitter, but it slowly softens, beckoning you to take another drink. This is a wine that will only grow in complexity over time, but there would be no way I could resist drinking it right away. This is not a Sangiovese for the weak of heart. Recommended Pairing: Try this powerhouse with a hardy pepperoni, Italian sausage and mushroom pizza. This bad boy would even stand up to green chile.

Is that Super-Tuscan price tag too high? How about a great classic Chianti? The 2003 Tiziano Chianti available at Quarters for around $7 is a great find. If this bottle of wine was priced over $20, I would give it a cautious recommendation, but for under $10 this Chianti is a must try. You may be initially turned off by its musty, yeast-like bouquet, but some aggressive swirling will reveal a delicate aroma of fresh fruit. I am always impressed how smooth and approachable this wine is—it is immediately likable. This delicious wine abounds with simple and accessible warm fruit flavors balanced with a hint of spice. This wine is dry and powerful, but it has a surprisingly clean and crisp quality. While no award winner, this wine is a great choice for your casual wine drinker. This bargain beauty shouldn't be left to sit for too long; buy it today and drink it tonight. Recommended Pairing: This wine would go great with any pizza with or without meat, even those with pineapple and Canadian bacon.

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