Every fall, we jump back into the same hectic routine. School is back in full swing, work is heating up and the weather is cooling down. There are some evenings when trying to navigate rush- hour traffic to make it home in time to prepare a home-cooked meal just isn't in the cards. That's when we run up the white flag and surrender to the siren call of carryout pizza and a good bottle of wine.
While we may not always agree on the type of pizza we like to unwind with, we do agree on three simple rules for "pizza wines." The wine should be able to mix and mingle with a variety of toppings, it has to cost $20 or less, and it should be easy to find in local wine shops. So in an attempt to help reduce the stress of having to make one more decision at the end of a busy day, we offer our annual picks for the perfect wines to go with pizza. Retail prices are approximate.
I really like white pizzas, particularly with caramelized onions. White wines with crisp acidity tend to cut through the richness of the cheese while fresh fruit flavors accent the toppings, so my selections run to the fresher, brighter end of the spectrum.
Of course, no pizza wine article is complete without an Italian selection, like the 2010 Ecco Domani Pinot Grigio delle Venezie ($12). The bouquet features scents of lemon-lime fruit and white flowers. Flavors of tropical fruit and citrus are kept crisp and refreshing on the finish thanks to abundant acidity. QPR 8
A very versatile grape varietal with white pizza is viognier, and the 2011 McManis Family Vineyards Viognier ($12) from California is a wonderful value. This creamy wine sports flavors of apricot, peach and orange peel on the front of the palate and an attractive fruit sweetness on the lush, lingering finish. QPR 8.5
For seafood-based toppings, the 2010 Craggy Range Te Muna Road Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc ($18) from Martinborough, New Zealand, hits all the right notes. From the citrus-oriented nose to the bright flavors of pineapple, nectarine and peach that jump brightly on the palate, this wine just shines. The pleasant acidity and distinct notes of passion fruit and vanilla on the finish provide a layer of complexity. QPR 9
My favorite pizzas are usually red sauce-based and piled high with an assortment of meat toppings. This combination adds up to a lot of spicy flavors and greasy goodness, so I am seeking out Italian red wines that will be able to stand up to the flavorful challenges of various spices.
My new go- to pizza wine is the 2010 Tormaresca Neprica ($12) from Puglia, Italy. Neprica is named after the grapes in the blend, roughly equal parts negroamaro, primitivo and cabernet sauvignon. Aromas of red berries and spicy licorice dominate the nose while flavors of dark fruit and black licorice are balanced in the mouth by subtle tannins and bright acidity. QPR 9
A big, spicy pizza needs a big, spicy Sicilian wine, like the 2009 Cusumano Benuara Nero d'Avola Syrah Sicilia ($17). It is a blend of 70 percent nero d'Avola and 30 percent syrah and is a bold wine with a full-bodied backbone that supports flavors of blackberry, dark cherry and black plum. The firm tannins provide a well-rounded frame, and the notes of earthiness on the persistent finish will complement pizzas topped with sausage and pepperoni. QPR 8.5
For a more delicate pie, I think the 2008 Castello di Bossi Chianti Classico ($20) from Tuscany, Italy, is a perfect match. The subtle aromas of red cherry and violets on the nose combine with soft flavors of cherry, red currant and earthy plum in the mouth. Firm tannins and good acidity provide great balance and structure. QPR 9