Cinnamon and apple, pumpkin-spice everything and hearty soups are the foods that come to mind when we start thinking of fall menus. But if we're all really honest with ourselves, and our grocery lists, most September nights are filled with soccer practice, parent-teacher conferences and the sleepiness that creeps up as it begins to get dark out before we can turn on the stove for dinner.
So what does our fall menu usually consist of? Takeout.
And that's OK. You deserve a pizza once in a while — you're a busy mom, dad, spouse, friend and adult who sometimes needs a slice and a glass of wine on a Tuesday night.
Yes, pizza is usually paired with beer, but sometimes you want to elevate your take-out game beyond Sunday Night Football fare. So, we asked three wine experts what they would pair with five different types of pizza, hopefully covering the palate of most pizza lovers out there.
"Any entrance level Chiantis will do the job," said Xavier Letteron, wine steward at Blantyre, which has an impressive wine cellar with over 10,000 bottles and more than 2,000 varietals. "Chiantis are quenching and, therefore, will temper the saltiness and spiciness (pepperoni, buffalo chicken) or go along with the freshness (tomato, basil) of any of these pizzas without overpowering any of the flavors."
But know that these pairings are just suggestions, you can't go wrong with what you like, according to Tom Morrison, general manager at Spirited Wines in Lenox, Mass.
"It's important to remember that in order to enhance your meals with wine, drink what you like, not necessarily what others like," said Morrison.
Put on your pajamas, grab the remote and pour yourself a glass of the good stuff.
"Regardless, the best pairing is who you share the wine and pizza with — cheers!" said Letteron.
Classic pepperoni pizza
• Kollin Kozlowski, wine buyer and CSW (Certified Specialist of Wine from the Society of Wine Educators) at Kelly's Package store in Dalton, Mass., recommends the Steele Zinfandel Pacini Vineyard 2012. "A perennial favorite, this Zin, made from over 100-year-old vines, is luscious, spicy and filled with ripe red fruits."
• "With this pie, there's definitely some spice and herb flavors and a nice fruity red that's light and won't fight the flavors is what you need," said Morrison. The Boeri Casa del Vino Barbera is just such a wine and the under $10 price makes it perfect for a crowd.
• According to Letteron, this pizza is best paired with Chianti Classico Riserva, which has more body and tannins, so it will sustain the spiciness of the pepperoni. The affordable and rustic Fulignano Chianti Classico Riserva or the more polished Monsanto Chianti Classico Riserva would be a great choice.
Meat lovers pizza
• Zenato Alavera 2013: This is a blend of grapes used in Amarone, which go though a process called appassimento, which partially raisinates the grapes, adding structure and depth, according to Kozlowski. "The velvety, big, bold, rich flavors will stand up nicely to all that meat," he said.
• "Lots of rich, gamey flavors here and you need a classic Italian red with bold, ripe fruit to balance out the meal," Morrison said. "We would love a glass of the Antonelli Baiocco red blend from Umbria with a slice of this pizza. A match made in heaven."
• Letteron recommends coupling this pizza with a powerful Tuscan wine, like a Brunello de Montalcino, for an interesting nuance. "Excellent examples of this type of wine are the tannic Capanna 2010 or softer Altesino 2011."
Plain old cheese pizza
• "I'll give you a choice between red or white here," said Kozlowski.
Donati Cellars Un-oaked Chardonnay 2014: "This Chardonnay has enough weight to handle the richness of the sauce and ample acidity to cut through the fattiness of the cheese."
Tarima Monastrell 2015: "Spain makes fantastic value wines, Monastrell is pure and juicy with tons of dark fruits and a peppery backbone."
• "A much more sublime slice of pizza with a natural creamy texture," Morrison said. "We were torn between a red and a white, but ultimately we went red with the ever-so-elegant La Bastide Saint Dominique Grenache, with its soft and ripe black cherry fruit. A delectable pairing!"
• "This can be fun to match with an even more acidic wine, like Schiava from Northern Italy," said Letteron. "The wine's fruitiness and somewhat candy-like profile will be highlighted by the cheese from the pizza. Elena Walch's Schiava is one of the best in this category."
Buffalo chicken pizza
• "Yow! That's a tough one," said Kozlowski. "The heat from the hot sauce is going to bury any nuance in the wine that you'd get." What does he suggest? Go with something cheap and quaffable, like Little Penguin Shiraz or a Big Elm American Lager.
• Morrison agrees that heat can sometimes be the death of a wine pairing, so to combat this he suggests a ripe and refreshing white, like the Darting Riesling Kabinett. "It's lower degrees in alcohol (9 percent) and the perfect quaffer for this pie. Coming in a liter bottle doesn't hurt either!"
• Choose a strong and full-body wine to sustain the intensity, according to Letteron. "An Amarone will bring a powerful match and will create a panel of very rich flavors. The sweetness and the velvety profile of the wine will balance harmoniously and temper the rich flavors of the pizza. The Allegrini Amarone is highly recommended and a good value for the money."
White pizza with lots of garlic, basil and fresh slices of tomato
• Kozlowski's pick is the Guicharde Cotes du Rhone 2013. "Elegant, floral and decidedly earthy, Cotes du Rhone is always one of my favorite food wines, this is especially great."
• "This is a classy pizza pie," Morrison said. "We must pair it with an equally classy white wine. In Northern Italy, Arneis is considered the queen of the Piedmont and we love the Carretta Cayega Roero Arneis as the match here. Subtle, elegant, and just plain delicious."
• This pizza is best with a white Vermentino from either the Tuscan coast or Sardinia, according to Letteron. "The light salinity and freshness of the wine will complement the ingredients in a light and lively combination. Argiolas makes a very good Vermentino from Sardinia."