What to DRINK With That – Pizza Red & White

from left: Jake Skakun, Mireille Sauvé, Josh Clark

DRINK editor Treve Ring asks local wine experts how they would approach pairing dishes and flavours. This month’s challenge is to pair a pair of pizzas: Red & White.


RED: Calabrese salame, tomato, mozzarella, red onion, black olives, anchovies

WHITE: porcini béchamel cream, roasted mushrooms, roasted onions, fresh thyme, fontina, pecorino cheeses


Our Experts:

Josh Clark (JC)
Sommelier, Il Terrazzo Ristorante/Winemonkey.ca

Josh is a Certified Sommelier with over 20 years in the restaurant business. He has worked in Whistler, Vancouver and Victoria and also two years in London, England as Sommelier at Jamie Oliver’s restaurant, Fifteen. By night he’s at Il Terrazzo Ristorante in Victoria working with the largest wine list on Vancouver Island. By day you can find him online at winemonkey.ca, having “serious fun with wine.”

Jake Skakun (JS)
Sommelier, L’Abattoir

Jake Skakun is a writer and wine professional based in Vancouver; most days, you can find him on the floor at the Gastown installation L’Abattoir where he oversees the wine program. He’s been educated about wine from the ISG, WSET and UC Davis. With a couple more trips in the works, he has had a chance to tour many of the picturesque wine regions of France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, the US and more locally, British Columbia. He blogs from time-to-time on the website Cherries and Clay.

Mireille Sauvé (MS)
Sommelier, The Wine Umbrella

Mireille started her wine career as ‘Canada’s Youngest Female Sommelier’ in 1997.  With multiple gold medals for restaurant wine programs under her belt, Ms. Sauvé founded The Wine Umbrella in 2005, aiming to raise the bar of wine appreciation among Canadians. She has worked closely with Wine Australia, Wines of France, Wines of Germany, Wines from Spain and Wines of Portugal, implementing modern initiatives to familiarize locals with their wines to great success. Mireille is also a freelance wine writer and Wine Editor of Flavours Magazine.


What to DRINK with:

RED Pizza: Calabrese salame, tomato, mozzarella, red onion, black olives, anchovies 

JC – I like this dish because it can be paired a few different ways. The biggest deciding factor in this dish is the saltiness, coming from three main ingredients: the Calabrese, the olives and the anchovies. The easy solution to salt is acidity. Sure – you could do a white or sparkling wine, but I would drink red with good natural acidity and not too much body. You want to complement the dish without overpowering it.  The Barbera grape from Piedmont in northern Italy would work well.  Not only will it work with the saltiness of the big three, it will also complement the tomato component. Get a little crazy and stick the bottle in the fridge for 15 minutes before serving.  The slight chill will soften the alcohol, lift the acidity and make for a refreshing pairing.  For the true Italian experience, ditch the big wine glasses and drink your chilled Barbera out of a tumbler.

JS – So often sommeliers have cast that demeaning label of ‘a nice little pizza wine’ at so many cheap and cheerful bottles. It’s a pleasure to suggest a pizza wine in a real pizza eating scenario. This one calls for something spicy, high acid (tomatoes), and earthy and I will venture onto a limb and choose a red from Italy. However, the red I’m thinking of is a little off-the-beaten-track: coming from the southeast corner of Sicily and an area called Vittoria. Here you find Nero d’Avola and Frappato; both tend to make wines that are lighter, fresher and prettier than you expect to come from this part of the world. A straight Frappato would be perfect – a Cru Beaujolais of Southern Italy – bright and fruity, with spice and an obvious Italian herbaceous character.

MS – Mmmm… That’s my kind of pizza! I’ll go with one of the following three: Valpolicella (Italy – Superiore and/or Classico if you can get it), Bierzo (some lovely Spanish Bierzos out there – total bang for your buck!) or Sangiovese (New World – Loving Howard Soon’s Sandhill Small Lots version: xo).  Look for a rustic flavour to the wine to enhance the salame / black olive components. At the same time, we don’t want anything too tannic or full flavoured as either would overpower the flavours and the weight of the pizza. Hence, I suggest old world wines or varietals with lighter bodies and moderate acidity.


WHITE: porcini béchamel cream, roasted mushrooms, roasted onions, fresh thyme, fontina, pecorino cheeses

JC – With this dish I am immediately drawn to the mushrooms and the cream.  You need a wine that can stand up to the meatiness of the porcini but also compliment the creaminess of the sauce. I’ve been doing this pairing for a number of years and my choice has always been white Burgundy. The malolactic fermentation that the Chardonnay undergoes adds the necessary creaminess to the wine. The carefully balanced use of oak adds the weight and structure needed to compliment the mushrooms. Being a cooler climate, white Burgundy also tends to have good acidity which helps cut through the richness of the cream sauce.  Check out some great wines from appellations like Saint-Véran, Rully or Pouilly-Fuissé.

JS – Many interesting whites come from the volcanic hills of Campania – the province of Naples and the home of Napoli-style pizza. It’s also home to whites from grapes like Falanghina, Greco and Fiano. This pizza obviously cries for a wine that has a creamy texture (bechemel) is earthy (mushrooms) and has some mineral characters to play off the cheeses. I’d be intrigued to try a slice with a rich and floral styled Fiano di Avellino.

MS –  My top three wine pairings for this one are white Rhône (inexpensive version like Louis Bernard or Ogier from France), cool climate Chardonnay (look to BC or Niagara for these) and “Bordeaux Abordables” or ‘affordable Bordeaux’ (moderately priced white Bordeaux ranging from $10 to $20 a bottle). Drawing mushroom-type flavours out of dishes is a wine’s most honourable mission. As such, we look to wines that feature mineral flavours with dry overtones, all the while complementing the food’s herbaceous flavours. Additionally, the pizza’s creaminess from both the sauce and the cheese demands a stern level of austerity, present in all of these wines.


Written By:

Treve Ring is a wine writer, editor, judge, consultant and certified sommelier, and has been with EAT Magazine for over a decade.\r\n\r\nIn addition to her work with EAT, she is a Wine Critic and National Judge for ...

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