I’m still trying to wrap my head around the story of the guy who claims he eats only pizza — and always just cheese and tomato — morning, noon and night. Oh, for 25 years. Twenty-five years? Evidently, in all that time, pizza with Italian sausage or artichokes or even pepperoni didn't tempt him.
That got me thinking: Even if you’re going to eat the exact same pizza over and over again, you can at least change out the wines.
Around here, as opposed to New Haven, Conn., home of the clam pizza, we don’t tend to eat many seafood pizzas. Our favorites tend more to meat-heavy versions with sausage, pepperoni or prosciutto. Or the myriad vegetarian options for topping pies, which can go either way, with red or with white wines.
Herewith, five reds and some whites eminently pizza-worthy and mostly costing less than the pie. (Remember that in Echo Park, L.A.’s priciest pizza neighborhood, the average pie is $18.)
The easiest way to find the wines is to 1) call your local wine shop or 2) plug the name of the wine into wine-searcher.com, though if you're not a pro subscriber you won't see every store that carries a particular wine.
Juicy dark berries and sun-baked herbs
2012 Stolpman Vineyards “La Cuadrilla” Ballard Canyon red wine (Santa Ynez Valley): A blend of 60% Syrah with Sangiovese, Grenache and a smidgin of Petite Sirah, La Cuadrilla — or “the crew” — is a Rhone-style wine that tastes of juicy dark berries and sun-baked herbs. It’s made from a different vineyard block each year and the profits go to Stolpman Vineyards full-time vineyard crew. It’s also the first vintage to bear the new Ballard Canyon AVA designation. About $20.
A great everyday Chianti
2010 Fattoria Selvapiana Chianti Rufina (Tuscany, Italy): One of the best estates in the Chianti Rufina area of Tuscany, Selvapiana turns out first-rate Sangiovese-based reds. A deep ruby in color, the 2010 Selvapiana tastes of bright cherries and plums, but a touch of earth gives it some weight. A great everyday Chianti. From $15 to $20.
A delicious spicy Zin
2012 Cline Cellars Zinfandel (California): Cline is the go-to cellar for reasonably priced, delicious California Zinfandel. You’ll find everything you love about Zin in this bottle — dark berry flavors, spiciness, a touch of oak. If you can’t find this particular bottle, go for the NV California Zinfandel for about the same price, sometimes less. And if you come across it, the 2010 Cline Cellars Zinfandel ancient vines is another steal. About $10.
Alternatives: Rosenblum Cellars Zinfandel Vintner’s Cuvee, The Seven Deadly Zins, St. Francis Zinfandel, Green & Red Chiles Canyon Vineyard Napa Valley Zinfandel
A lush traditional Chianti
2010 "Querciabella" Chianti Classico (Tuscany, Italy): Always a favorite Chianti Classico of mine, Querciabella (or "beautiful oak") is made from biodynamically grown grapes. Traditional in style, this Chianti Classico, whether its the current 2010 or the remaining 2009, is full-bodied and lush, with flavors of black cherry and blackberry. A great food wine. About $25.
Alternatives: Chianti Classico from Fattoria di Fèlsina, Fontodi, Badia a Coltibuono, Casa Emma, Castellare, Castello di Ama, Castello di Volpaia, Riecine, San Giusto a Rentennano.
A Valpolicello with depth and complexity
2010 Allegrini “Palazzo della Torre” Veronese (Veneto, Italy): Allegrini’s Palazzo della Torre impresses with its depth and complexity. The fruit is ripe and vibrant, tasting of dried cherries with accents of sweet spices, licorice, chocolate and tobacco. It’s a wine that develops in the glass, opening up and showing new layers over an evening. About $18.
Alternatives: Masi Campofiorin
A fresh and vibrant Rioja
2010 Palacios Remondo “La Montesa” Rioja (Rioja, Spain): Spain’s Alvaro Palacios is that rare winemaker who makes great wine at every price level. Though this 2010 Rioja from La Montesa Vineyard is one of his lower priced wines, the blend of Garnacha with Tempranillo and Mazuelo has all the right stuff. The flavor is fresh and vibrant, the tannins smooth, a Rioja that exudes an elegance for well under $20. From $14 to $17.
Alternatives: LAN Rioja Crianza, CVNE Cune Rioja Crianza, Muga Rioja
A fresh and vivid Valpolicella
2011 David Sterza Valpolicella Ripasso Classico Superiore (Veneto, Italy): A distinguished Valpolicella Classico Ripasso from David Sterza. When he inherited the family estate in 1998, he opted not to sell the grapes as his family had done for generations, but to make and bottle his own wine. Good move: Sterza is producing terrific Amarone and Valpolicella, both great values. Amarone almost demands an important occasion. Valpolicella does not. It’s a wonderful everyday wine. Fresh and vivid, it tastes of ripe dark berries, earth and smoke. About $18.
An easygoing Piedmontese red
2012 Elio Grasso Dolcetto d’Alba dei Grassi (Piedmont, Italy): An easygoing Piedmontese red from the underappreciated Dolcetto grape, which is sort of the younger cousin of Nebbiolo. Bright and polished, the 2012 Elio Grasso Dolcetto d’Alba tastes like sweet fresh cherries and plums. It’s a really pretty wine, with a minerality that gives it depth. From $15 to $19.
Alternatives: Albino Rocca Dolcetto d’Alba Vignalunga, Ca’ Viola Dolcetto d’Alba Vilot, Renato Ratti Dolcetto d’Alba Colombe, Giovanni Corino Dolcetto d’Alba.
WHITES FOR VEGETABLE AND SEAFOOD PIZZA
A crisp, clean Pinot Bianco from South Tyrol
2012 Alois Lageder Pinot Bianco Dolomiti (Trentino-Alto Adige): A Pinot Bianco from South Tyrol’s brilliant, almost 200-year-old wine estate Alois Lageder. With the fifth generation in charge now, Lageder produces a consistently excellent range of whites. The Pinot Bianco Dolomiti, at under $15, is always a great buy. The grapes are grown on cooler west-facing slopes and farmed biodynamically, giving a wine that is crisp and clean, with aromas of apples and delicate flowers. About $13.
Alternatives: Cantina di Terlano Pinot Bianco, Tiefenbrunner Pinot Bianco
An Orvieto from a master blender
2012 Palazzone "Terre Vineate" Orvieto (Umbria, Italy): Giovanni Dubini of Palazzone holds to a strict standard. His Orvieto is always among the best of the appellation. His Terre Vineate made from a blend of five white wine grapes, including Grechetto and Procanico, is aromatic and dry, with a delicate aroma of hazelnuts. Perfect for a pizza with clams or squid, even with a Margherita. From $10 to $15.
Alternatives: Barberani Orvieto Classico Superiore Castagnolo
A Soave with great minerality
2011 Inama Soave Classico (Veneto, Italy): The grapes for third-generation wine producer Stefano Inama’s Soave Classico come from 30-year-old vines and his Soave has an uncharacteristic intensity. The bouquet is gentle, mostly wildflowers, but the 2011 has a minerality reminiscent of Chablis along with a bright thread of acidity. And that’s what holds your interest, sip after sip. About $15.
Alternatives: Pieropan Soave Classico, Anselmi Capitel Foscarino
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