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The Journal Gazette

  • Photos by Samuel Hoffman | The Journal Gazette A red wine can pair nicely with sausage and carne pizzas offered at 800 Degrees.

  • 800 Degrees executive chef Matt Rogers delivers a couple of fresh pizzas to diners at the restaurant.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016 10:19 pm

Wine goes fine with pie

Kimberly Dupps Truesdell | The Journal Gazette

The signature pizza at 800 Degrees is made with tomato sauce, mozzarella and ricotta cheeses, house-made hot sausage, fire-roasted red peppers, parsley and chili oil.

The pie brings the fire from the restaurant’s wood-fired ovens to the diners’ mouths. And though many of those savoring the pizza might be grabbing a cold beer to wash it down – after all, 800 Degrees was created with the idea of craft beer and craft pizza pairings – more and more people are choosing to complement their slice with a glass of wine.

Executive chef Matt Rogers says the two 800 Degrees restaurants (10020 Lima Road and 5215 Illinois Road) have seen an uptick in wine sales the past two years.

With the 800 Degrees pizza, maybe the diners are selecting a pinot noir, which could go well with most of the offerings at the restaurant, Rogers says. 

"If people do think of wine with pizza, they often think of red wine," says Jeff Armstrong, owner of WineTime. "You can do white wine, too."

But whether you go red or white, both Rogers and Armstrong suggest going with an Italian variety.

"The rule of thumb is if you are pairing wine with food, you go with a wine from the country origin of where the food is from," Armstrong says. "It has a more likely chance of pairing well. … It just enhances the (dining) experience."

And when you think of Italy, wine and pizza, you can’t go wrong with a chianti. Often pictured with a wicker basket around the bottom of the bottle, chianti is made from the Sangiovese grape in the Tuscany region of Italy. The wine is not as dry as other red wines, such as cabernet sauvignon, and it has a nice finish. 

"(It’s a) medium to medium dry, medium-bodied wine," Armstrong says. "It has a little bit of acidity to it, which helps balance out the flavorings in pizza."

The sausage and carne pizzas, Rogers says, are better paired with red wines.

At 800 Degrees, the wine list includes the Michele Chiarlo Barbera d’Asti and Lucchine Valpolicella Classico from Italy. There are also reds from local Two EE’s, Chile and Northern California, including the Cartlidge and Browne Pinot Noir. 

If you are dining at home, Armstrong suggests a wine that hails from Sicily. Made with Nero D’Avola grapes, which have been called one of the most important grapes of Sicily, the wine is gaining popularity. It is full-bodied and has notes of cherry, making it a great pairing for beef.

Just as you would with other main courses, wine drinkers should switch from red to white wine when eating lighter dishes. 

"We have a lot of great vegetable and salad dishes that go with the white wines," Rogers says. "A chardonnay with a little bit of oak would pair fairly well there because we cook with woods in the oven. You would get the same kind of wood notes that you get with the char on the pizza."

Pinot grigio is also a good pairing with lighter pizza, such as those made with white sauces or a garlic-butter sauce. 

"Pinot grigio is a lighter wine," Armstrong says. "So if someone’s just getting into wine, that’s not a bad place to start."

Armstrong also suggests Gavi, which is made in the Piedmont region of northwest Italy. The wine made from cortese grapes has a floral nose and notes of peach, pear and citrus. "A pizza with pineapple on it – that would be nice," he adds. 

Skipping fruit and going with greens on top of your pie? A pizza with spinach or other greens would be better paired with Orvieto. The fresh, herbal notes of this dry wine, which is made with Tuscany, pair well with the vegetables. 

But the most important thing to keep in mind when pairing wine and pizza?

"Start with what you like," Rogers says. "What is your go-to and go from there, is what I always say."