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Italian Classic

Wood-fired pizza mets its match
with Barbera d’Alba


 

Lesa Lapointe, sommelier at Pizzeria Libertto in Toronto knows a thing or two about matching Neopolitan-style pizza and wine. And she hits the hard facts fast. “The first thing to remember is that it’s not a traditional pairing,” she says. At its very core, pizza is simple. A few key items like high-quality sauce and fresh mozzarella make it excellent. At its very essence it’s something you can eat with your hands and, generally speaking, even a stellar pie doesn’t command prices high into the double digits. Wine on the other hand, can have a pretentious connotation. It is the choice beverage of elites, causes otherwise intelligent individuals to become blubbering idiots when handed a leather-bound wine list and an elite bottle can cost upwards of hundreds of dollars. In Naples, the Italian city that Libertto looks to for inspiration for its traditional wood-fired pizza, LaPointe says they often gulp down beer or cola with their slice. There’s nothing highbrow about that. Her job is to find similar refreshment on the wine list. Cue high-acidity Italian reds. Her dream pairing? Barbera d’Alba. “They’re richer, denser and rounder with brighter acidity” than Barbera d’Asti, she says. “It’s gonna be a win regardless of what you eat.”



Why It Works
Italian wines have a bite of acidity, which can be a turn-off word for some consumers. But, that impression can be turned around given that the best examples are lively or bright as opposed to biting. LaPointe says, “Pop a bottle in the fridge 15 minutes before you drink it and it’ll help round out the edges. Warm lemonade isn’t as refreshing as cold.”

Handy Stand-bys
Pizzeria Libertto’s wine list was created to be versatile and so should the bottles you grab from the shelf. A wine has to work with anything on the menu, but should shine with certain selections. LaPointe says to first consider any challenging ingredients, like asparagus or eggs, as the protein isn’t necessarily the only dominant element to your perfect pizza.

Upper Crust

Fontanafredda 2009 Briccotondo Barbera

Piedmont, Italy $15.95 (072348)
Barbera’s bright acidity and red fruit flavours are very much on display in this easygoing, appealing red wine.

Pio Cesare 2009 Barbera d’Alba

Piedmont, Italy $22.95 (938886)
Classic cherry and earthy notes accent the rustic character of this vibrant and flavourful red from a top producer.

Rocche Costamagna 2007 Rocche delle Rocche Barbera d’Alba Superiore Classico

Piedmont, Italy $32 (015248)
This premium expression of Barbera shows dense fruit, good complexity and rich concentration from aging in oak barrels.


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