It’s a question that we get asked all the time: Does Lambrusco pair well with pizza?
Technically the answer is no.
Across Italy and especially in the big cities, Italians generally drink beer or soda pop (Coca Cola, really) with pizza. Italians rarely eat or serve pizza at lunch. And there’s a reason for that. Many Italians believe that you should avoid eating dairy at lunch time. (If you find a pizzeria in Rome that’s open at lunch it’s because it’s a pizzeria for tourists.) They prefer to eat pizza in the evening. And because they believe that dairy can be challenging to digest, they prefer something sparkling as a pairing, although not wine. Bubbles are always good for digestion in the view of most Italians. It’s part of the reason why they like sparkling water so much.
The reason why beer is preferable over wine is because pizza is served so hot that it can eclipse the aromas and flavors of fine wine.
In Naples, pizza’s spiritual home, beer and soda are the most common pairings. But traditionally and historically, the Neapolitans also pair their pies with two wines, Gragnano (from the township of Gragnano) and Lettere (from the township of Lettere). They are both gently sparkling red wines, made mostly from Piedirosso with smaller amounts of Aglianico.
Sounds similar to Lambrusco, doesn’t it?
It’s rare that you find Lambrusco on wine lists in pizzerias in Italy. In fact, it’s rare that you even find a wine list at a pizzeria in Italy.
But in America, there is a new generation of pizzaioli (pizza-makers) and pizzerias where part of the allure is a fine wine list.
And across America, more and more U.S. sommeliers are pairing their pizzas with Lambrusco.
Technically and traditionally, Lambrusco isn’t considered an ideal pairing. But it actually works wonderfully with pizza, just the same way that Gragnano and Lettere do. More and more, American sommeliers are changing the Lambrusco paradigm.
All of the above raises the question: What wine to pair with New York-style pizza?