CF & FOOD / the ultimate pizza wine
Leah Jorgensen Jean
Summertime brings me the best memories of chewy, bubbly, Neapolitan pizza – especially when reminiscing about my travels to Italy to visit parts of the Campania where my maternal great-grandparents were born and raised. While pizza is delicious anytime of year – there’s something about an outdoor pizza oven baking a fresh pie in the summer months that is so perfectly enjoyable with garden-fresh ingredients of the season.
I have long loved a generous glass of Cabernet Franc with pizza. While there are some obvious perfect pairings with pizza and Italian wines – and I certainly enjoy those, too! – there is no doubt a special affinity between Cabernet Franc and pizza. And – here’s some fun trivia – even though Cabernet Franc comes from France, the largest planting of the varietal outside of France is in Italy! That’s right – 13,813 acres (5,590 hectares) – according to Wine Folly – make up the largest plantings of Cabernet Franc outside of France.
Cabernet Franc has long been considered a great wine to pair with pizza due to its many characteristics that naturally complement the many flavors and varieties of the dish. Don’t just take it from me! Take it from world renowned sommeliers and Pizzaiolos (chefs who specialize in making pizza and have been trained to make real, Italian-style pizzas) who agree on why Cabernet Franc works so well with pizza:
- Acidity: Cabernet Franc typically has good acidity levels, which help cut through the richness of cheese and toppings on pizza. The acidity in the wine balances the flavors and cleanses the palate between bites, preventing the dish from becoming too heavy.
- Herbaceous Notes: Cabernet Franc often exhibits herbal and earthy aromas, such as capsicum, tobacco, and sometimes even floral notes. These qualities can enhance the herbal flavors in certain pizza toppings, like fresh basil or oregano.
- Medium Body: Cabernet Franc is usually medium-bodied, which means it has enough weight to stand up to the various textures and flavors of pizza without overwhelming them.
- Red Fruit Flavors: Many Cabernet Franc wines offer red fruit flavors like raspberry, cherry, and cranberry. These fruity notes can complement the tomato sauce and slightly sweet elements in some pizza recipes.
- Tannins: While Cabernet Franc generally has lower tannin levels compared to its relative Cabernet Sauvignon, it still has enough tannic structure to provide a pleasant contrast to the melted cheese and other toppings on pizza.
- Versatility: Cabernet Franc comes in various styles, from lighter and fruitier versions to more complex and aged options. This versatility allows it to pair well with a wide range of pizza styles, from classic Margherita to meat-loaded varieties.
- Regional Pairing: Cabernet Franc has roots in the Bordeaux region of France and is commonly used in some Italian wine regions as well. This regional connection might create a sense of harmony between the wine and the pizza, both originating from the same general area. Also – some more fun trivia – the French have also mastered their own version of pizza called pissaladière.
At Leah Jørgensen Cellars, we have a wonderful selection of Cabernet Franc options that literally go with every kind of pizza you can dream of: our lightest, quenching, sweet-tart (think pink grapefruit!) rosé; our signature rich, layered, complex Blanc de Cabernet Franc with generous flavors/aromas of lemon curd, pineapple, macadamia nut, tarragon, elderflower; our stunning Oregon “Tour Rain” Vin Rouge – a blend of 40% Gamay Noir and 60% Cabernet Franc that bursts with pie cherries, violets, cranberries and white pepper finish; our flagship Oregon Cabernet Franc (cherry, raspberry, pomegranate, poblano pepper, cedar, slate, cigar box), and our two ethereal reserves – “Clos Rogue Valley” and “Grand Reserve” – that have more age, depth and elegant notes of violets, crushed rose petals, tobacco leaf, cherry pipe tobacco, birch bark, Lapsang souchong tea, and Amarena cherries. Might as well host a pizza party this summer and line up your table with all of them!