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PAIRING: Pizza & Rhone Wine

Red Rhone wines are great with pizza.
Photo by Kelly Cline | IST.


We typically enjoy a beer with pizza. But we recently attended a “pizza challenge” that pitted top Manhattan pizza makers against those from Brooklyn.

First, our top pick pizzas (use these ingredients at home):

Kudos to Chef Mathieu Palombino from Motorino Pizzeria Napoletana in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, for his outstanding Brussels Sprout Pizza. On a very crisp crust, the chef layered fior di latte (cow’s milk mozzarella), pancetta affumicatta (Italian smoked bacon), fresh garlic and Parmigiano Reggiano. Crisped brussels sprout leaves were sprinkled on the pie after it came out of the oven. It may sound unusual, but the taste is divine.

A plain Margarita pizza from Chef Mark Iacono of Lucali Pizzeria in in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn, followed. While we were ecstatically eating the Brussels Sprout Pizza, we commented that it was unfortunate that something so plain was following such a dynamite recipe. Not to worry: Chef Iacono’s combination of mozzarella perked up with some Asiago cheese and fresh basil atop excellent tomato sauce was a revelation.

Stuffed though we were, we ate two pieces of this creamy, flavorful combination. We highly recommend adding some Italian grating cheese atop the mozzarella.

Made in a wood-burning oven that heats to 925°F, all of the pizzas we tried were molto excellente, with that slightly-charred crust one can only get from cooking over wood. But the award goes to Team Brooklyn.

Rhone Wines
The Rhone wines are so much more elegant than Chianti as a pairing with fine pizza.

Northern Rhone wines are syrah-based. The Syrah grape offers blackberry and currant fruit flavors plus firm tannins. The more complex wines have wonderful aroma and flavor nuances of black pepper, smoke and tar. Look for Crozes-Hermitage and Côte-Rôtie appellations.

Southern Rhone wines are Grenache-based (the same grape used to make Beaujolais). Grenache producers fruitier wines—cherry, currant and/or raisin flavors, with softer tannins than Northern wines. The better-made wines have aromas of black pepper, licorice and menthol. Look for wines from the appellations of Côtes du Rhône, Châteauneuf-du-Pape AOC
Vacqueyras and Gigondas AOC.

  • To train yourself in aromas and flavors, get the original Wine Aroma Wheel, developed by a professor at the University of California at Davis, America’s leading school of wine education. There are other products called “wine wheel” but they’re not anywhere as helpful.
  • For free, you can study our Wine Descriptors page.

  • Related Food Videos: For more food videos, check out The Nibble's Food Video Collection.

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