Wine of the Week: The fourth annual pizza wine review

WASHINGTON — Where did the summer go?

How did we get all the way through the unbearable heat and humidity of the August — which actually wasn’t as scorching this year as usual — and slide so quickly into September, thrown into the hustle and bustle associated with deadlines at work and school?

I vaguely recall getting some relief from the summertime blues with the help of assorted crisp white wines and a few pinot noirs here and there. But now we’re back into the thick of it, with rush-hour traffic (thank you, Bob Marbourg, for helping me keep my sanity) and constant reminders of impending homework assignments.

So with demands on our time piling up like cars on the Beltway at rush hour, sometimes the best course of action one can take to regain some modicum of relief is to simply order a pizza and open a decent bottle of wine. That’s were the annual pizza wine review comes to the proverbial rescue of harried households everywhere.

As regular Wine of the Week listeners know, there are two simple rules when it comes to picking a pizza wine: “Pizza wines,” by definition, should be full of flavor and cost less than the actual pizza, so generally less than $20. In an attempt to help reduce the stress of having to make one more decision at the end of a busy day, here are four perfect picks to pair with pizza.

This year, I have been experimenting with white pizzas — particularly those with caramelized onions. The 2014 d’Arenberg Marsanne/Viognier “The Hermit Crab” from McLaren Vale, Australia is a wonderful Rhone varietal blend that will complement the sweetness of the onions and balance the richness of the cheese. Pretty scents of melon, grapefruit and orange zest dominate the nose while lush flavors of peach, apricot and nectarine glide over a citrus-based frame. The noticeable acidity kept the wine in focus and accented the notes of lemon/lime on the medium finish. $18

Another versatile pizza-loving white wine is the 2014 Vinabade Albarino from Spain. The wine is both refreshing and luscious at the same time. It features pretty scents of acacia and white peach with notes of apricot, peach and spicy acidity. Supple hints of guava linger on the crisp and there’s just enough acidity to cut through the creamy texture of the cheese. $15

I love pizzas piled high with all the meat toppings on the menu. Unfortunately, that combination usually results in a cacophony of spicy goodness and enough grease to lube a small fleet of cars. So I look for a red wine that will have the ability to stand up to the flavorful challenge of the meat while providing enough structure to cut through the fat and grease that my napkin didn’t sop up.  The iron-fist-in-a-velvet-glove 2015 Cigar Box Reserve Malbec from the Mendoza region of Argentina is bursting with flavors of blueberry liqueur, ripe cherry, orange rind and bramble on the front of the tongue and label-true notes of cedar and cigar box humidor tobacco on the spicy, luscious finish. $15

You can’t have a “pizza wine” article without including at least one Italian wine — and the 2013 Vicchiomaggio San Jacopo Chianti Classico from Chianti region of Tuscany, Italy is a winner. Made from a blend of 90 percent Sangiovese grapes, this wine shouts out for pizza with flavors of black cherry, red plum, dried fruits, and tobacco with hints of baking spices and earth on the bright finish. Its prominent tannins and focused acidity make it an ideal pizza companion. $16


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