WASHINGTON — Every fall, we jump back into the same hectic routine: school is back in full swing, work is heating up and the weather is cooling down.
There are some evenings when trying to navigate through rush-hour traffic just to make it home in time to prepare a home-cooked meal isn’t in the cards. That’s when we surrender to the siren call of carryout pizza and a good bottle of wine.
Each year, my wife, Cindy, and I look back on some of the wines that we have enjoyed over a slice (or two) of various toppings combinations, and take notes on our favorites. And while we may not always agree on the type of pizza we like to eat, we do agree on three simple rules for “pizza wines”:
- The wine should be able to mix and mingle with a variety of toppings
- It has to cost $20 or less
- It should be easy to find in local wine shops
So, in an attempt to help reduce the stress of having to make one more decision at the end of a busy day, we offer our annual picks for the perfect wine to go with pizza.
I really like white pizzas, particularly with caramelized onions. White wines with crisp acidity tend to cut through the richness of the cheese, while fresh fruit flavors accent the toppings, so my selections run to the fresher, brighter end of the spectrum.
Legendary winemaker Dennis Horton and his wife, Sharon, were the first to plant Viognier in Virginia. We lost Dennis earlier this year, but his name and talent lives on in the remarkably versatile 2015 Horton Tower Series Viognier. Featuring aromas of honeysuckle and orange rind, it is a creamy wine, sporting flavors of apricot, peach and orange peel on the front of the palate, and an attractive hint of mango on the lush, lingering finish. $17
Of course, no pizza wine article is complete without an Italian selection, like the 2016 Cascina Valentino Roero Arneis from the Piedmont region in Italy. The bouquet features scents of stone fruit and white flowers. Flavors of nectarine, yellow peach and citrus are kept crisp and refreshing on the finish thanks to abundant acidity. $12
My favorite pizzas are usually red sauce-based and piled high with an assortment of meat toppings. This combination adds up to a lot of spicy flavors and greasy goodness, so I am seeking out Italian red wines that will be able to stand up to the flavorful challenges of various spices.
My “go to” pizza wine this year is the 2015 Cecchi Sangiovese Di Toscana from the Tuscany region of Italy. Made from 100 percent Sangiovese, this wine is easy on the wallet and easy on the palate. Aromas of red berries and red cherry drift up from the glass, while flavors of red plum, red berry and dark strawberry are balanced in the mouth by subtle tannins and bright acidity. $10
A big, spicy pizza needs a big, spicy Sicilian wine, like the 2016 Morgante Nero D’Avola. It is made from 100 percent Nero d’Avola, and is a bold wine with a full-bodied backbone that supports flavors of blackberry, dark cherry and black plum. The firm tannins provide a well-rounded frame and the hint of smokiness on the pleasant finish will complement pizzas topped with sausage and pepperoni. $15