Americans eat a lot of pizza. But instead of soda or beer, why not try a glass of wine to go with this tasty meal?
A marriage of flavors
Americans eat approximately 100 acres of pizza each day or 350 slices per second. But all too often, wine with pizza is overlooked in favor of beer or soda, says Leslie Sbrocco, wineanswers.com columnist and author of The Women's Guide to Buying, Pairing and Sharing Wine, available in Oct. 2003. As a testament to wine's versatility, Sbrocco recently helped wineanswers.com pair wines with America's favorite pizzas.

"What we found is that wine and pizza are a perfect marriage of flavors. From vegetarian-topped pizzas to pepperoni, both red and white wine were great choices with the pizzas we tasted because wine pairs so well with pizza's main ingredient -- cheese," says Sbrocco. Pizza selections tasted were based on America's favorite pizza toppings according to the National Association of Pizza Operators.

America's favorite pizza toppings and wine pairings

Cheese -- Full and toasty Chardonnay holds up to the mouth-filling and roasted tomato flavor of the pizza sauce and richness of the cheese.The acidity of a light Beaujolais serves as a foil for this pizza's cheesiness. A classic Chianti is also a great choice. For an American alternative try Sangiovese, named for the grape used to make Chianti.

Pepperoni -- The fresh tartness of a Pinot Grigio or Pinot Gris (they are different names for wines made from the same grape) puts out the fire of the zesty pepperoni and cleanses the palate. A mild, less herbaceous Sauvignon Blanc will also do the trick. A refreshingly cold glass of White Zinfandel is delicious with this pizza, as its sweetness tempers the spicy pepperoni.

Sausage, mushroom and onion -- A full-bodied Chardonnay holds up to the sausage and the mushrooms, while pairing perfectly with the sweetness of the onions. A Zinfandel or Syrah (called Shiraz in Australia) has just the right fullness and zip to complement the pizza's hearty sausage and earthy mushrooms.

Classic vegetarian (green pepper, fresh tomato, black olives, mushrooms, onions) -- The herbaceous quality of Sauvignon Blanc works perfectly with the pizza's green pepper and mushrooms. Pinot Noir is a red wine that is light enough not to overpower the pizza loaded with veggies. The wine's earthiness is an added bonus, as it complements the mushrooms on the pizza.

Hawaiian (pineapple and ham/Canadian bacon) -- Wine with a Hawaiian pizza? Absolutely! Sauvignon Blanc is fantastic with this pizza. Its acidity complements the pineapple and is a delicious counterpoint for the smoky ham. The fruitiness of a light Beaujolais complements the fruity pineapple but doesn't diminish its tartness. An off-dry (just slightly sweet) Riesling, served well chilled, offsets the salty ham and cheese while echoing the fruity aspect of the pineapple. Try a Riesling from New York, Washington State or Germany.

As a wine educator and NYTimes.com wine columnist, Sbrocco spreads the word that wine should not be intimidating. In fact she recommends stocking your shelves with wine by buying bottles of affordable reds and whites to have on hand any day of the week. "The biggest thing that people need to remember is that wine -- just like food -- is one of life's simple pleasures to share with family and friends," says Sbrocco.

Sbrocco dishes out the following tips to help Americans get beyond their fear of wine:

  • Don't rule out leftovers -- Just like pizza, wine can stay fresh for two to three days in the refrigerator.
  • Trust your gut -- Like anchovies versus pepperoni, it all boils down to personal preference. Drink what you like, red or white, with the foods that you like.
  • Follow the 15-minute rule -- Take white wine out of the refrigerator about 15 minutes before serving and put red wine in the refrigerator about 15 minutes before serving.
  • Think TV, dinner and wine -- Don't feel like breaking out the stemmed wine glass for pizza and Monday Night Football? Use a tumbler -- any glass is a wine glass.
  • Stock your shelves -- You don't need a fancy wine cellar to keep several of your favorite wines on hand. Just store the bottles in a spot away from heat and light.

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