The night before Thanksgiving happens to be one of the biggest take-out pizza nights of the year, on par with New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. So, the heck with turkey; the real question is what wine goes best with pizza?

By Ray Isle
Updated October 26, 2018

Thanksgiving is racing towards us as fast as a ticked-off wild turkey (I should know: I’ve been attacked by one) which will mean innumerable blog posts about what wines go best with the classic roasted bird.

But, what about the night before Thanksgiving?

The thing is, the night before Thanksgiving happens to be one of the biggest take-out pizza nights of the year, on par with New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day (and utterly crushed by Superbowl Sunday, but what do you expect?). So, the heck with turkey; the real question is what wine goes best with pizza?

To answer this question, I crashed the “somm supper” that the wine directors for Danny Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality Group hold once a month at one of the group’s restaurants. Basically, they all get together at 11pm, post-service, and attempt to stump each other with esoteric bottles poured blind (like a 1985 Ridge York Creek Petite Sirah, for instance). But the heck with that. What I wanted to know, and managed to get from all of them, was what their favorite affordable pizza wine was. Here are the results:

Juliette Pope, Wine Director, Gramercy Tavern
2009 Odoardi Savuto ($14)
“This is NOT a wine for a white pizza with pesto! A half dozen local Calabrian grape varieties are mixed in the vineyard and thus in this bottle for this balanced bruiser of a red. It’s a deliciously rustic, and cries out for a red-sauce pizza sporting earthy, meaty, spicy, funky toppings.”

Jeffrey Kellogg, Wine Director, Maialino
2012 Vallana Campi Raudii Rosso ($14)
“Vallana is a great producer in Piedmont’s Gattinara region, and has been for generations. In fact, if you ever see wines from the 60’s, buy them right away! This Nebbiolo blend has all the fresh red fruit you would want in an everyday red, just enough tannin if you’re into meat on your pie, and plenty of acidity to show with the red sauce.”

Jack Mason, Wine Director, Marta
2010 Nino Negri Quadrio Valtellina Superiore ($16)
“This is a beautifully balanced medium-bodied bottle of Nebbiolo that has delicate tannins and bright acid, which makes it ideal for a variety of red and white based pizzas with all different kinds of toppings! I love reds from this area of Italy because they are so versatile and generally a good bang for your buck from the entry level all the way up to the reserve selections.”

Michaël Engelmann, Wine Director, The Modern
2013 Mas de Gourgonnier Rosé ($14)
“Summer might be over, but I think a great rosé can be enjoyed throughout the year. Made from mostly Grenache, Cabernet and Cinsault, this a refreshing wine, perfect with the herbs and sweet tomatoes on a Napoletana pizza. And because summer is over the wine comes at $13.95 instead of $18.95. Who doesn’t like a deal?”

Mia Van De Water, Wine Director, North End Grill
2013 Marcel Lapierre Raisins Gaulois ($14)
“I think with a classic, red-sauce pizza, the key is to find something bright and fresh (you want to match the acidity in the tomato sauce!), with crunchy red fruit and some herbal aromatics. Lapierre's Raisins Gaulois comes from the young vines on his domaine in the Beaujolais cru village of Morgon, and has lovely tart cherry and cranberry fruit, fresh sage and rosemary notes, and just enough earthy, mushroomy goodness to keep things interesting.”

Michael Scaffidi, Wine Director, Union Square Cafe
2013 Moulin de Gassac Guilhem Rosé ($12)
“A magnum of this rosé blend of Grenache, Carignan and Syrah is the perfect amount, because the first bottle goes down like crisp lemonade. It’s light in body and has aromas of lavender, rose petal, and orange blossom. The subtle spice of this Languedoc wine is a magical compliment to pepperoni pizza.”

Sabato Sagaria, Chief Restaurant Officer, USHG
2012 Vietti Barbera d’Asti Tre Vigne ($15)
“Light, bright and juicy! Barbera is really versatile with any style of pizza, with any toppings. I really love this one with my new favorite Marta pie, the Trippa alla Romana (with tomato, tripe, chili flakes, pecorino, and mint), or the Funghi (a white pie loaded with fontina, hen of the woods, chanterelles, red onion, thyme). And it’s even better with a slight chill on it.

John Ragan, Director of Wine & Restaurant Operations, USHG
2012 Claudio Morelli La Vigna della Terrazze Sangiovese ($15)
“For me, Sangiovese is the ultimate pizza wine—spicy red fruit, dried herbs and plenty of acidity to keep it refreshing and snappy. Just like in Italy, though, Sangiovese to be gulped with pies is at its best when it’s fresh and does not have too much alcohol or oak. That is why I gravitate away from concentrated Chiantis or Brunellos and go to the Le Marche region. Claudio Morelli’s excellent bottlingcomes from the seaside cliffs just north of Ancona. It’s Sangiovese without makeup: no oak, just the pretty fruit, herbs and acidity.”