Pizza Wines

It takes a certain sort of chutzpah to make pizza for Dough’s Doug and Lori Horn. But wine guy Keith Kuhn, he of the backyard pizza oven `see “Outdoor oven envy,” March 19, 2008`, is also fearless in the kitchen and was instrumental in cooking up this wine and pizza pairing party, an event also attended by Josh Cross, chef and co-owner of Oloroso. As I said, fearless.

Omniboire, on the other hand, is merely subversive, and wanted to make sure we skewered any expecation that we’d be tasting only red wines. (We’re not afraid to subvert our normal approach to this column on occasion, either, as this month’s less formal format attests.) Accordingly, some rosés and whites were thrown into the mix, and all wines were judged on their pizza-worthiness on a one-to-six-slice scale, six slices equaling pizza-pairing perfection. One wine actually achieved paragon status, meaning that all six tasters rated it a six.

That wine was a 2005 Maretima Nero d’Avola from Sicily ($15). Good on its own, it really snapped into peppery focus with a pizza made with mushrooms, tomato, sopressata, finocchiona, mozzarella, taleggio … and some truly diabolic dried chiles that could be added at will.

Bold wines without a huge amount of complexity fared best overall, with a 2006 Casalone Barbera from Piedmont ($15) coming in second for the reds with a score (rounded up) of five slices. The berries in this one seemed to stand up nicely to even the chile heat. The biggest wine of the tasting, a 2007 Vina Robles Red 4 from Paso Robles ($15) was great and gutsy solo but ran roughshod over the pizzas, leading to a score just over three slices, while a much simpler wine, the ’07 Brick Oven Red blend from Puglia ($13), merely easy-drinking on its own, popped with the pies: 4 slices.

For the whites and rosés, Keith had prepared a pizza bianca topped with caramelized onion, taleggio, thinly sliced Redondo Iglesias serrano ham and mushrooms. (So, yeah, this is not your normal Pizza Bianca; bear with us.) The two rosés showed well here (and not badly with the tomato pizzas either). Intriguingly scented with cherry and bitter almond, the 2007 Jasci Cerasuola Montepulciano d’Abruzzo ($19) weighed in at just over four slices, though some tasters preferred it alone. The 2006 Bastianich Rosato from Friuli ($17) rated nearly five slices for a clean acidity that cut across creamy cheese flavors.

We had to speculate a little for two of the whites, as they were mostly consumed before the pizzas appeared. The 2006 Cantine Barbera Inzolia Sicilia ($17), a personal favorite, “would be good with pizzas with lots of veg — such as broccoli rabe,” thought Cross, while the Italo Cescon Pinot Grigio Friuli ($15) scored with the taleggio cheese in both pizzas. Also good with a classic margherita, proposed another taster.

Another offbeat Italian white, the 2006 Martina White Wine from Apulia ($16) seemed to work with the caramelized onions but little else, while a more opulent chardonnay from Santomé in the Veneto ($14) was, by common accord, lush and lovely on its own but needed more acidity to work with pizza.

So, what’s the fuss, you ask? I always drink beer with my pizza. Most Italians would actually agree with you. But Omniboire prefers to imagine a world where even riesling or, say, a prosecco might be sipped with your slice. Maybe the most important criterion is this one, lifted shamelessly from a pizza blog: Never pay more for your wine than you paid for the pizza. Given the price of
pizza these days, we can live with that one. •