Suburban Wino 2: The Wordpress Experiment

Classic Pairings 102: Chianti & Pizza Pie | January 18, 2010


Originally, it was Coke, Sprite, or root beer. Then, somewhere along the way, the “root” was lost in translation, and the harder stuff- likely a cheap domestic brew- became the poison of choice. Sure, by themselves they were adequate (especially the beer, in quantities I wish not to, nor probably can I, remember), but when paired with the quintessential gathering food- pizza- our drinks become more than thirst-quenchers or buzz-generators. Pizza has always been Friday nights, college post-bar scene, simple, honest, rustic, and satisfying. Seems fitting the drink along with it would fit the bill as well.


Perhaps that’s why Chianti has long been the perfect match for a flat of dough with some stuff on it. With all due respect for malted barley and hops, Chianti, and the Sangiovese grape from whence it’s vinted, tends towards rustic, honest, and unpretentious. And I guess that’s why the two make such a classic pairing. Either that, or like so many groups of students scarfing down slices at 4 AM seeking one last shot of loudmouth soup, some Italian kids found it in the pantry as a last-resort libation, and the rest- as they say- is history.


Not quite as desperate, but equally as hungry (as is often the case), we fired up the oven to its inadequate 500+ degrees, procured some dough from a local bakery (I’m not confident enough in my homemade dough, or baking in general at this point), and sourced a cornucopia of fresh veggies and tasty, fattening meats. A quick preparation of canned Italian plum tomatoes, olive oil, garlic, fresh basil, dried oregano, pulverized fennel seeds, salt, pepper, and sugar (in secret proportions, or more accurately, in quantities I neither remember nor wrote down) yielded a flavorful base-coat for our discs of punched-down and flattened out dough (none of which ended up on the ceiling, as far as my wife knows). We then went to work- Picassos and Rembrandts in our own minds- layering buffalo mozzarella, pecorino, hot sausage, sopressata, pepperoni, cappicola, spinach, onions, green pepper, kalamata olives, anchovies, hot peppers, sliced tomatoes, dollops of marscapone, or whatever else we could find. Brushed the edges with some extra virgin, a sprinkle of salt or crack of pepper, and into the blistering oven for 8 minutes (convinced a wood-burning outdoor oven that reaches 1000 degrees would be a necessary purchase in the future).


In the end, given the equipment, the pizzas turned out great. Especially the crust, which really in the most important part of a good pie. Ours were crunchy on the outside, soft and chewy on the inside. The flavorful sauce, rich meats, and runny cheeses melded to create a familiar taste of comfort. They called for a wine of equal simplicity. We poured Fèlsina Berardenga Chianti Classico, and the clear (but subtle) cherry, orange peel, and herb flavors, along with bright acidity worked great to counterbalance the firecracker of tangy tomatoes, italian herbs, yeasty dough, spicy meats, charred veggies, and unctuous cheese…


…I thought I’d never use the word “unctuous”. I struggled for ten minutes trying to think of something else. Sorry.

Anyway, this was no time to dwell on the flavors and aromas of the wine. Chianti is meant to be DRUNK, much like pizza isn’t often savored like haute cuisine. All the more reason why the two go together so well. Acidity brings flavors out of food, and it helps balance fat. Needless to say, pizza has both in spades (flavor and fat), and Sangiovese is- like many Italian wines- big on acidity. They’re designed for food, and they deliver big time. Maybe not the best wines on their own, but as a “condiment at the table” (as one Italian winemaker once described it), Italian wine, and Chianti especially, finds its comfort zone….


…just like a 2nd year journalism major on a couch in a stupor at 4 A.M., half-eaten box of Domino’s by his side.

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