There’s no denying pizza and beer make a lovely couple, but what about wine and pizza? Wine, or vino, is, after all, from the word venas, which means “to love.” And there’s a lot to love about a wine and pizza union.
First, the right wine enhances the sweetness of tomato sauce and cuts the fat of the cheese. Like any successful food marriage, the two work together to create a delectable flavor profile. In fact, they are such a good pair, you may find their mutual love contagious. With a slice of pizza in one hand and a glass of vino rosso in the other, don’t be surprised if you get the sudden urge to slow dance.
What You Need to Ask Yourself Before You Choose Your Wine
Pairing wine with pizza doesn’t have to be as complex as the flavor. In general, red wine tastes best with red sauce, and white wine goes well with white sauce — but it’s also much deeper than that. We are going to show you what you need to know to find the best wine for pizza —you’ll feel like cupid and a wine aficionado in no time.
To get started, you’ll need to ask yourself a few questions.
If your tummy’s rumbling and you’re anxious to get date night started, you probably want to choose the wine as quickly as possible — not so fast! Before you reach for a bottle of sparkling apple cider, take a moment to consider your pizza. Ask yourself the following questions:
- Sauce: What type of sauce is your pizza going to have? Will it be creamy or tomato-based? Do you plan on adding lots of garlic?
- Toppings: What toppings do you want? Are you going for a pizza that’s veggie-centric or meat-centric?
- Cheese: What kind of cheese do you want on your pie? Mozzarella or feta? Or perhaps a heavy sprinkling of grated parmesan?
- Herbs: Do you love to cover your pizza with herbs like oregano, parsley or basil?
Once you know the flavors of your pizza, you’ll be ready to choose a wine that enhances its qualities.
You know you want a pizza loaded with cheese, mushrooms and pepperoni. Sounds good, but what’s next? How do you choose a wine that complements these specific flavors?
As we mentioned above, you should choose a red wine over a white wine when pairing it with pizza. Why? Because you’ll want a wine that has high acidity and moderate tannin.
The high acidity helps balance the fat in the cheese and can stand up to the acidity in the tomatoes. Also, highly acidic foods balance well with salty foods. So, a glass of highly acidic wine works well with salty cured meats, like pepperoni.
You’ll know a wine is acidic if it:
- Causes a tingling sensation in your mouth
- Feels like it has a lighter weight than other wines
- Makes your mouth feel wet
Just keep in mind that sweetness, fat and salt work nicely with acidic flavors. Think of the sweetness in tomato sauce, the fat in cheese, and the saltiness in toppings like bacon or olives. Flavor-wise, it makes perfect sense to choose a medium to highly-acidic wine as your pizza’s companion.
Next, let’s address tannins. Tannins usually refer to the dryness and bitterness of a wine, or its ability to make you pucker. Tannins come from the seeds, skin and stems of the grapes used to make the wine. Red wines typically have a higher amount of tannins.
You’ll know you are tasting tannins when:
- Your tongue dries out
- You’re left with a dry bitter feeling in your mouth after swallowing
- The wine tastes bitter
So, what do tannins have to do with pizza? You’ll want to avoid wines with high tannin levels because they don’t mingle well with tomato sauce. Cabernet sauvignon is a high-tannin red wine, for example, and pinot noir is a low-tannin red wine. Instead of high-tannin wines, aim for wines that offer a touch of fruitiness or earthiness for greater balance and complexity.
Other key terms to know when choosing the perfect wine for your pizza include:
- Medium-Bodied: This refers to wines that feel fuller in the mouth than light wines, but not as full as full-bodied wines. Wines between 12.5 percent alcohol and 13.5 percent alcohol are usually considered medium-bodied.
- Full-Bodied: Wines with more than 13.5 percent alcohol that feel heavier in the mouth are considered full-bodied wines. These are usually red.
- Oaked or Unoaked: Oaked wines were aged in oak barrels, whereas unoaked wines were aged in steel barrels. An oak barrel will affect the flavor of the wine.
Pizza and Wine Pairings
Do you feel a little more confident in your pizza and wine-pairing abilities? If so, eccellente! If you still feel shaky, don’t worry. We have suggestions to help make the pairing process as smooth as melted cheese.
The Special and Fruity Reds
The special is our deep-dish pizza stuffed with love — sausage, mushrooms, green peppers and onions. These hearty ingredients beg for a sweet, fruity wine to add an exciting layer of flavor. Here are our top wine picks to accompany a special evening.
Mysterious zinfandel has unknown origins. Though its grapes are grown in California, DNA studies point to a birth in Croatia. Nevertheless, it’s no secret this fruity, spicy wine goes great with pizza — especially pizza stuffed with savory meat and grilled veggies.
Zinfandel is moderately tannic and highly acidic, which tones down the acidity in tomato sauce. When it comes to the sausage in the special, zinfandel does an excellent job balancing the saltiness and fat of the sausage.
With the first sip, expect a burst of sweet berry flavors followed by a smoky finish. This wine pairs well with the bold, slightly sweet flavors of garlic, tomato, peppers and onions. Just make sure to choose a medium-bodied, unoaked zinfandel — oaked zinfandel would be too strong for pizza.
Syrah or Shiraz
Syrah and shiraz are different wines from the same grape. These ruby red wines are generally peppery, smoky and dark-berry flavored. Shiraz or syrah can enhance the flavors of anise or fennel in pizza sausage, taking a slice to new, wonderful levels. These full-bodied wines make the perfect bold match for a hefty slice of meat-stuffed pizza.
Imagine a juicy sausage and pepper kabob sizzling on a hot grill. Well, you can enjoy this richness in flavor if you combine a glass of shiraz with a special stuffed slice.
Stuffed Cheese and Acidic Reds
Our cheese deep dish is stuffed with our signature Wisconsin mozzarella cheese, making it a wine-lover’s dream. Cheese and wine fell in love long ago, and it’s time to celebrate their enduring romance.
Acidic red wines work well with cheesy pizza because the acid offsets the buttery cheese. Try a GSM or a grenache-syrah-mourvedre blend with your cheese-stuffed, deep-dish slice.
Grenache is a high-acid wine that balances the sweetness of tomatoes, while spicy syrah adds complexity to a plain cheese slice. Mourvedre, originally from Spain, is a full-bodied plum-colored wine. Peppery, smoky and floral, this wine needs creamy mozzarella to tone it down. As part of a wine blend, mourvedre’s intense flavor is more palatable.
Thin Crust Meat and More Meat
Would you like some pizza with your meat toppings? The savory, spicy flavors of mixed meats taste so yummy and are oh-so satisfying with the right wines. Our Meat and More Meat Thin Crust pizza is loaded with pepperoni, sausage, salami and bacon. With the right wine, you can enjoy a burst of succulent flavors with new clarity.
Chianti is more than just wine. In fact, it’s a wine zone in Italy’s Tuscany region. Chianti Classico is the district that makes the most widely available wine. If your bottle of Chianti Classico has the black rooster seal, you know you have the real deal.
This centuries-old wine is mostly made from the sangiovese grape and is best when accompanying food, like grilled meats, pizza, pasta or any Italian dish. This wine embodies the flavors and scents of Italy and should be a kitchen staple for Italian food fanatics everywhere.
Chianti is less tannic and juicier than other wines, making it a perfect pair for a meaty slice of pizza. With notes ranging from sour cherry to espresso, Chianti highlights the spiciness of meats, while balancing the saltiness.
Sangiovese is the iconic grape of Italy. Meaning “the blood of Jove” in Latin, this grape holds a lot of weight in flavor and history.
Sangiovese is a strong wine that can stand up to the intense flavors of cured meats like pepperoni. Also dry and highly acidic, sangiovese works well with any tomato-based dish. Like a sweet sauce, this wine shows flavors of cherry, tomato and oregano. It easily pairs with a variety of dishes.
Like Chianti, Barbera is versatile and pairs well with rich, meaty dishes. It’s a moderately-tannic wine which makes it a good match for herbal and tomato flavors. Barbera is also very juicy, fruity and sweet — a beautiful companion for salty meats.
Thin Super Veggie and Pinot Noir
Treat yourself to a slice of pizza piled with nutritious veggies and luscious cheese, served with a glass of pinot noir. Our Super Veggie Thin Crust Pizza is built to pamper you with mushrooms green peppers, onions, broccoli, spinach and black olives. What goes best with yummy cooked veggies? None other than pinot noir.
The nutritious, delicious bitterness of dark greens like broccoli and spinach tone down the sweetness of pinot noir, while the saltiness of the olives complements the flavor. The smooth creaminess of the cheese and the pungency of the onions help paint the full flavor picture that’ll make you want to call up friends to celebrate. Make sure to order extra, or you might not have anything to share.
Also, know that when you sip a glass of pinot noir, you are imbibing ancient history. Pinot noir grapes have been adored since Roman times. These pinecone-shaped grape clusters with dark skins originated in the Burgundy region of France. Pinot noir is a highly acidic, medium-bodied wine that is commonly paired with fish, pork and acidic sauces. It is also the go-to wine for mushrooms.
The earthy spiciness of pinot noir also enhances the flavors of herbs, like oregano. As you can see, pinot noir is the perfect choice for a veggie-topped pie. Add your favorite herbs to your slice to really bring out the notes in this loved-by-all wine.
Extra Thin Spinach, Artichoke and Feta
A classy pizza calls for classy wine. Our Extra Thin Crust Spinach, Artichoke and Feta pizza features all the ingredients of colorful, varied flavor. With mildly sweet and earthy artichokes, creamy and salty feta and bitter green spinach, you have lots of complex, fun flavors to work with.
Also, consider that artichokes contain an acid called cynarin, which makes other foods taste sweet. Interestingly, cynarin prevents our taste buds from recognizing sweet flavors. So, when we take a bite of a food other than artichoke, we recognize the contrast between foods in the form of sweetness. For this reason, artichokes work well with slightly bitter foods like spinach or dry wine.
Fruity, tart and less intense than other wines, pinot grigio makes the perfect gentle companion for our artichoke and feta slice. Its acidity is just enough to cut the saltiness of the feta, and its fruitiness helps balance the tartness of the artichoke. Dry and less sweet than chardonnay, pinot grigio doesn’t overpower pizza. It’s a refreshing white wine that pairs well with veggies and lighter pizza. Spices that pair well with pinot grigio include parsley, thyme and tarragon.
Sauvignon blanc is a popular French white wine that has unique peppery and grassy flavors. With medium to medium-high acidity, this wine goes best with other herbs, such as parsley, basil and dill. Its acidity makes it a good match for the creaminess of the cheese and the artichoke’s flavor.
Our spinach, artichoke and feta pizza makes for a slightly lighter fare than our stuffed deep dish, for example. For this reason, we recommend pairing it with white wines, like a buttery chardonnay. Unoaked chardonnay is citrusy and herbal in flavor and goes well with pizza of the same flavor profile. Choose unoaked chardonnay, as oaked chardonnay might be too rich in flavor and could overwhelm the creaminess of the cheese.
Desserts With Wine
When the pizza box is empty, the fun doesn’t have to end. A tasty family dinner or a romantic evening for two wouldn’t feel complete without a sugary finish. Dine like they do in Italy and savor your meal, take your time, relax and enjoy the company. When the main meal is over, grab your wine glasses, head to the couch and get ready to serve sweet joy.
Depending on the dessert, you may need a different wine than the one you had with your pizza — desserts are usually far more sweet and less earthy than a cheese and tomato pie.
Here are three things to look for when choosing a dessert wine:
- Acidity: Acidic wines are best with a naturally acidic fruity dish
- Intensity: Pair intense wines with intense desserts
- Sweetness: Dessert wine should be sweeter than the dessert
You can also focus on the type of dessert you plan to serve by asking yourself the following questions:
- Is your dessert a custard and vanilla?
- Is your dessert composed of fruit and spice flavors?
- Is your dessert caramel or chocolate flavored?
Port or champagne usually go well with any dessert if you want to keep things easy. To play it safe, avoid high-acid white wines with any dessert. Here’s how to pair wine with one of our dreamy treats.
Taking home or dining in with a slice of our tiramisu? Possibly created in 17th-century Tuscany, tiramisu translates to “carry me up” in Italian.
Our tiramisu is a soft sponge cake blanketed by a layer of mascarpone and coffee liquor, topped with a dusting of cocoa powder. It is like a pillow that will carry you up to a happy plane of existence. Try wine that accentuates the coffee flavor, such as a:
- Vin Santo: A sweet, nutty golden wine — think of how well hazelnuts mix with coffee
- Cream Sherry: Sweet, nutty and rich in color
- Ruby Port: A deep red color and strong berry taste with nutty notes
What Italian feast would be complete without cannoli? Cannoli have been loved since the Middle Ages in Sicily. This sweetened ricotta-cheese stuffed pastry shell got its name from the word canna which means “a cane-like reed.” Actually, the word “cannoli” is the plural version of “cannolo,” which translates to “little tube.”
Our three Mini Cannoli are enough to share, so you and your dining partner can indulge in our house-made ricotta cheese treat. Enjoy your cannoli with a sweet wine like marsala, vin santo or Moscato di Pantelleria.
Triple Layer Chocolate Cake
Chocolate lovers, we haven’t forgotten about you. In fact, we designed our Triple Layer Chocolate Cake especially for you. Make sure to pair your cake with wine that matches its level of sweetness — that means putting a cork in your dinner’s dry red wine and going for sweet port or sherry. A sparkling wine like Moscato d’Asti could work well, too.
It can be tricky to pair chocolate with wine, but if you choose carefully, the right wine will help to cleanse your palate before the next scrumptious bite.
Best Ways to Serve and Store Your Wine
The best temperature to serve red wine is between 62 and 68 degrees. White wine, on the other hand, is best served a bit cooler at a temperature between 49 to 55 degrees. In general, you’ll want to keep your wine cool — but not too cool — and in a dark space that’s not too damp or too dry. Try not to shake the wine too much, as this could also affect its quality.
When you’re finished with your wine for the evening but still have some left, cork the bottle immediately. It’s best to cork your wine after every pour if possible. The point is to keep oxygen from reaching the wine since it turns wine into vinegar. Store corked bottles in the refrigerator, and the wine will stay fresh for about three to five days. Refrigeration should help slow down chemical changes. Also, make sure to store the bottle upright to reduce the surface area exposed to oxygen.
We hope we inspired you to grab your wine glasses and spend an evening with friends, family or that special someone over a leisurely Italian meal. A glass of wine not only adds flavor layers to a meal, but it warms the belly and lifts the spirit just like a classic pasta dish or custom-made pie.
For more than 40 years, Giordano’s has been delivering world-famous pizza from our oven to your doorstep. Want to spend the evening at home enjoying a delicious pizza with a bottle of wine? Give us a call. Prefer to stop in at one of our locations to fuel up for a night on the town? We’ll be happy to serve you.
We understand how important is to slow down sometimes and savor the good things in life. When the wine glasses are empty, and everyone is blissfully stuffed, take a moment to sit back, relax and enjoy dolce far niente — the sweetness of doing nothing.