Pizza Pairings With Local Wines

By Jessica Norris Granatiero

The beginning of the year is marked by resolution, a time of regrouping. Often, we set goals, or intentions, as I call them, to change something about ourselves – ie., do less or more of an action – to create a more desirable outcome. I look at the start of a new year as a time of renewal and focus more on what resonates with me most. Naturally, that involves an exploration of food and cooking.  

In January, we stay inside more, hunker down and try our hands at creating new dishes or altering old standbys. Making pizza is one of these. In our family, each one of us likes a different type of pizza. For example, my go-to is vegetable pizza. My youngest daughter, the last child still at home, likes the classic cheese or Margherita style. My older daughter wants only cheese.  My son enjoys the same as my husband, any pizza clothed in meat – ie., pepperoni, sausage, pancetta. Like father, like son.

Whether you too are trying your hand at making pizza at home like we do, or are ordering out from your local pizza place, try one the below pairing suggestions that include wines from local Rhode Island-based vineyards or wineries. You will be in for a culinary delight, and supporting the local economy.  

1. Classic Cheese or Margherita Pizza. One of the most popular styles is the classic cheese pizza, simply tomato sauce and cheese. Margherita style consisting of fresh tomatoes, cheese and basil and not too different than the classic.

Pairing: As the easiest pizzas to pair with wine, I recommend Anchor & Hope’s rosé. Anchor & Hope is a wife-and-husband duo who produces wine here in Rhode Island from grapes in vineyards with which they partner in California, Oregon and in Europe. They are doing some really cool things. Rosé is one of the best wines for pairing with food. Anchor & Hope’s rosé is made from the two grapes cabernet franc and st. laurent that are grown in Germany, yet it’s made here in RI. Sustainable, it’s fresh, light and zippy. The couple makes the wine in a drier style, full of great red berry notes. Its acid is the right amount to cut through the cheese and tomato sauces of both styles of pizza. The Wolffer Estate Summer in a bottle Rose would also be a great pairing for a classic cheese pizza.

2. Pepperoni or Sausage Pizza. The marriage of pepperoni or sausage with cheese and sauce is a gastronomic delight. The sweetness of the cheese counterbalances the meat’s saltiness.

Pairing: The tomato sauce’s acid and meat’s saltiness are calling for a wine to calm that down. In addition, the tomato sauce and meat need a wine with acid. For this, I like Greenvale Vineyards cabernet franc, which is the name of the grape. This selection has all the components – acid, body and fruit – that this style needs.  It has just the right amount of weight, without being heavy.

3. Vegetable Pizza – This is one of my personal favorites. I like it full of mushrooms, caramelized onions, eggplant and red or yellow peppers, and love the array of colors that the vegetables bring forth. The more vegetables the better, creating an artful masterpiece.  

Pairing: I choose the white wine Prana from Sakonnet Vineyards, located in the picturesque Little Compton.  Prana brings together two grapes – vidal blanc and gewurztraminer for an off-dry (half dry) wine with beautiful notes of orange peel and citrus. Fresh, vibrant and medium bodied, the wine’s weight can stand up to the cheese without overpowering the vegetable’s delicate nature.   

4. Hawaiian Pizza. Personally, I never developed a taste for Hawaiian pizza, covered in pineapple and ham, but many people I know love it.

Pairing: The sweetness of the pineapples dovetails well with the saltiness of the ham, and for this you need a wine that can match well with both components. Newport Vineyards Riesling is the go-to for this style of pizza. In Middletown, Newport produces a sweeter style Riesling that presents with high, yet balanced, acidity. The sweetness in the wine is needed for the pineapple, and the acid is needed for the ham. This marriage is a gastronomic pleasure. The local Nunes family has been operating this vineyard for more than 25 years.