This year has been difficult on any group that relies on face-to-face gatherings. While some can migrate to video conferencing, it often falls short.
So it is with groups that gather to taste together, such as the American Wine Society. Chapters around the country have found ways to meet online, taste and share. One of the best ways to learn about wine or any other beverage worth an in-depth exploration is by tasting and enjoying it with others.
Recently, the Electric City Chapter of the American Wine Society found a way to gather, taste, share and support local businesses with an online pizza party. Participants were asked to buy their favorite neighborhood pizza and a bottle of wine, log into a Zoom meeting and talk about their pairing. Winners of a drawing got a gift card to a pizzeria.
For the virtual gathering, I picked up a red tray and specialty pizza from my neighborhood spot, Samario’s Pizza in North Scranton, enjoying its standard red tray and a specialty stuffed pizza, the thick crust, Chicago-style Danielle’s Favorite, bulging with capicola, salami, pepperoni, tomatoes, peppers and onions.
Pizza is straightforward as far as a meal goes. I find that rosés and lighter, crisper reds go best with pizza, as the acidity pairs with the tomato sauce while cutting through the fat of the cheese. You won’t necessarily get a better experience with an expensive wine, either. An affordable Italian red will do just fine with pizza. All of mine came from Fine Wine & Good Spirits stores.
For the red pizza, I went with a Coltibuono 2018 Cetamura 2018 Chianti. This wine shows the typical Chianti character of cherries and earth. It has a smooth, medium texture but cleans up with a crispy lightness at the finish, making each bite of pizza taste like the first. $12. ♦♦♦♦
My next choice was a barbera, which shows a bit more complexity than an entry-level Chianti, so I figured it would cross over with the meaty Danielle’s Favorite. It was nice to see my friends Ed and Monica from Pittston hone in on a barbera as well for their pairing.
My pickup was GD Vajra 2018 Barbera d’Alba, which tilts toward black fruit, with plum, berry, and a hint of spiciness and herbal notes that picks up the added Italian seasoning on the pizza. $20. ♦♦♦♦ 1/2
For the meat-stuffed pizza, I had to go big, choosing what Italians call primitivo. It’s the same grape as zinfandel, mostly produced in the heel of Italy’s boot. Leone de Castris Il Medaglione 2018 Salento Primitivo smells of black pepper and cola with jammy berry character, brown sugar and spice. As with the barbera, one doesn’t expect such dense flavor to be followed by racy acidity, but this is how Italians make their reds: to go with food. $15. ♦♦♦♦
Learning about everyone’s favorite bottle to enjoy with a tray or pie was enlightening. But people also got to learn about little, family-owned pizza treasures that have become part of their family in ways only a local pizza place can. I’m putting Cebula’s Pizza in Dupont on my to-go list, and eventually, I’ll have to take a break from Danielle and try the other decadent specialty pizzas at my neighborhood pizzeria.
GRADE: Exceptional ♦♦♦♦♦, Above average ♦♦♦♦, Good ♦♦♦, Below average ♦♦, Poor ♦