OK, I'll admit it - tonight was another lazy, quick dinner kind of night. I mean, it is hump day after all! Knowing that I was going to get out of the office a bit on later than usual, I planned to make a pitstop at my neighborhood MOD Pizza for a pesto-loaded build-your-own concoction.
Some of my favorite pizzas are pesto-based. I love how the sweet and spicy basil intermingles with the fatty pine nuts and olive oil. Is it healthy? I mean...it's healthy fats, right?
I like to keep my MOD order simple: roasted garlic, tomatoes, mozzarella, and LOADS of pesto. I mean, it needs to be neon green under that cheese. Just saying.
With such a fatty, salty, savory pizza, I like to pair something either bright and refreshing or a bit tart. My typical go-to options would be a lighter Sangiovese (Chianti) for the tartness, or traditional Ligurian Vermentino or Pigato white wines for their refreshing, moderate acidity zing. These are all very common and delicious pairings, which have served me well in the past. Seeing as I like to challenge myself to find new and creative pairings for vegan, vegetarian, and pescatarian dishes, however, I decided to try something different.
My Recommendation - Pinot Grigio from Alto Adige, Italy
Pinot Grigio from Northern Italy, unlike its U.S. counterparts, is characteristically dry and mineral-heavy. In this cold environment on the sometimes near-vertical inclines of the Italian Alps, these grapes retain more of their acidity until harvest, which leads to crisper, zingy white wines with less fruit notes or sweetness. Cold nights can often also contribute to grapes being harvested prior to full phenolic (flavor) ripeness, which can result in an increase in the perceived herbaceous and tart aromas and flavors in the wine.
Accordingly, Alto Adige Pinot Grigios tend to exhibit aromas of citrus, grapefruit, honey,and melon. Similar, but very restrained, fruit carries over onto the palate, with heaps of minerality and moderate acidity. These are great wines to pair with any fresh, herb-forward plate - think peppery arugula salad, herb risotto, or oysters and shellfish for those pescatarians out there.
Why this bottle in particular?
Kellerei Cantani di Terlan is a legendary producer in the Alto Adige (Südtirol in German) wine growing region of Northern Italy. This region has historically been populated by a medley of people groups, with the modern visitor being equally likely to hear German being spoken as they are to hear Italian, and with many street signs being written in both languages. Terlan is located in the small town of Terlano in the heart of this region, less than 70km from the Austrian border. Thanks, in part, to this cold, high altitude climate Terlan have won award after award for their white wines, especially those produced from Pinot Bianco, Pinot Grigio, and Müller Thurgau grapes. I won't delve into the varietal specifics of Pinot Bianco or Müller Thurgau right now, but I will hint at a future pairing that will feature the a bottle of showstopping Vorberg Riserva from Terlan.
Similar to other great Pinot Grigios from this region, Terlan's Pinot Grigio entices with aromas of fresh grass, grapefruit, honey, lemon, and melon. The fruit is not as prevalent on the palate, with much of the flavor being herbs, grass, and honey. This pairs wonderfully with the pesto-heavy pizza, highlighting the basil in the pesto without detracting from it. Likewise, there is a saline-esque minerality here that delightfully enhances the saltiness of the pizza crust and mozzarella. Finally, the present, but not overwhelming, acidity helps make the pizza, loaded with "healthy" fats, feel a bit lighter than it would on its own.
Other Great Choices
Reds: Chianti, Nebbiolo (maybe - this one is hit or miss), CA Zinfandel, Rosso di Montalcino, Chinon, Beaujolais
Whites: Pigato, Vermentino
Sparkling: Prosecco (dry, not fruit-forward), Cremant du Alsace, Blanc de noirs Champagne
Rosé: Loire Rosé (dry)
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