SOUR GRAPES COLUMNIST
Wine expert Robert Rees shares the most important rule: keep it simple.
I don’t like to mess with pizza too much. Forget the pineapple, truffles or artisanal cheese sauce. It wants to be thin crust and with the three classic toppings: Red Sauce, Mozzarella and Basil. It then leaves me plenty of time to dodge the pitfalls of the usually ordinary wine list while everybody else at the table mulls over the other options. I also get to sneak in a quick Negroni to fortify myself before the table agonises between still and sparkling; if the table is too near the kitchen; and harasses the waiter for the WIFI password. (The latter usually done with broad circular hand signals and expectant facial expressions because the Internet surely doesn’t exist in Italy and their five Social Media followers will certainly expire if they don’t know where he/she is eating on a Tuesday night from their seats in the ‘burbs of Singapore.)
A lousy wine list almost seems to be an imperative ingredient for a great pizza joint – along with a few other trademarks. There’s the sweaty pizza-maker wearing a dubiously coloured vest and an exhausted expression, Andrea Bocelli crooning in the background and the intoxicating smell of garlic, white wine and oregano in the air. All of this comes together in a perfectly Italiano brew that assures a great night – even if you have a hangover the next day from drinking some illicit hooch made by the owner’s brother-in-law in his Nepalese chop-shop.
To find the right pizza wine, there are some vital aspects required. Firstly the wine needs a sense of place. Some hedge-fund backed commercial effort is not worth the trouble; neither do you want the wine too refined either where the main event gets lost in the fuss. It needs to be forward fruit to counter the seductive flavour of the tomato and vital phenolic effects of the pizza-maker’s last ciggie – smoked during his break while texting his estranged mistress in Palermo. It needs to pack a little rustic, tannic grunt. No point in something too elegant that loses out to the intoxicating flavours of wood-fired crusts either.
When pulling all this together, it seems that if one wants to play it safe, you won’t go wrong with the rich depths of Nero d`Avola or the sashaying curves of a well-made Sangiovese. If international varietals are the way to go for you, a youngish Cabernet or well-made Malbec will also make the point. If you are after white wines, then a Spanish Alborino or Pinot Grigio will take care of things brilliantly.
So long as one remembers the most important thing – keep things simple: both the pizza and the wine. And to make sure you tip the waiter. It’s the hardest job in the world …
Robert Rees runs Sales and Marketing for wineexchangeasia.com. Originally South African, he lived in Sydney for a decade before moving to Singapore. (Views expressed do not reflect the views of the company).