Napolitan pizza (pic: Internet)
Hong Kong Italy Wine

The definitive wine guide to Neapolitan pizza

Italian wine expert Averardo Borghini Baldovinetti of Vino e Finanza, gives a definitive guide to pairing wines with three different types of Neapolitan pizza.

Beloved by people from all over the world, Pizza has become one of the most iconic Italian dishes and one of Italy’s greatest cultural exports. To enjoy the most authentic pizza, one has to go back to where it all started – Naples. 

While people conventionally pair pizza with beers or soft drinks, here comes some good news for wine-lovers as Averardo Borghini Baldovinetti, Managing Director of Hong Kong-based company Vino e Finanza, recommends a list of Italian wines to perfectly counterbalance the rich flavours of Neapolitan pizza.

Aerial VIew of Naples from Piazza del Plebiscito on a beautiful sunny day (pic: iStock)
Aerial VIew of Naples from Piazza del Plebiscito on a beautiful sunny day (pic: iStock)

History of Naples

Pizza originated in Naples (or Napoli in Italian), the capital of Campania, and it is the third largest and third-most populous city of Italy. Unlike Rome, Milan or Florence, Naples may lack the designer shops that lined all the tourist attractions or the grandeur and glamor of Florence , but this authentic and vibrant city has cultivated 4,000 years of history and is humming with life with its majestic architecture, indulgent cuisine and seaside splendor. 

The history of Naples can be traced back to the settlement of Greeks in the 2nd millennium BC. Later, the city became a major cultural centre when it was a part of the Roman Republic, and during the Renaissance and Enlightenment. Naples was also the capital of the kingdom of Naples in the Middle Ages. In 1815, the city rebelled against the Bourbon monarchs during the Neapolitan War and became a driving force for Italian unification in the 19th century.

With its rich and long-dated history, Naples city center is designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. As one of the largest historical sites in Europe, the remaining facades of various medieval castles and classical ruins including Palace of Caserta and the Roman ruins of Pompeii and Herculaneum are like faithful messengers whispering the glories of bygone years to generations of Nepolis and travelers. 

The historical city of Naples is full of charms, indulgent flavors and majestic architecture (pic: Vino Joy News)
The historical city of Naples is full of charms, indulgent flavors and majestic architecture (pic: Vino Joy News)

Neapolitan Pizza

If there’s one food you can eat in just one bite to understand  the verve and taste of Neapolitan cuisine, it has to be pizza. 

Renowned as the hometown of pizza, the traditional art of pizza-making in the city was featured in UNESCO’s list of intangible cultural heritage in 2017. You can easily sit down in Naples and enjoy reputable Neapolitan pizza at a rustic pizzeria without worrying about soggy pizza dough or worst yet, pineapple toppings. 

The food-loving city, unsurprisingly, has the most Michelin stars among all Italian cities, ahead of Rome or Florence.

The iconic pizza Margherita may look simple with a dough base topped with tomato, mozzarella and basil, but only true masters can grasp the art of simplicity and few outside of Naples can tout themselves as authentic Neapolitan pizza makers.  

If pizza-makers want their pizza to be classified as truly original, they need to obtain a denomination of control (DOC) status granted by Associazione Vera Pizza Napoletana (AVPN) to prove the pizza making process has followed strict Neapolitan traditions and rules from flour, yeast selections to dough making technique and presentation.

Originated in the 16th century, ‘Pizza Napoletana’ was also recognized by the European Union as Traditional Speciality Guaranteed (TSG) in 2010, which means the materials, composition or method of production used has been consistent for a minimum of 30 years. 

Pizza and wine pairing guide (pic: Vino Joy News)
Pizza and wine pairing guide (pic: Vino Joy News)

Wine Pairing Recommendations 

Neapolitan pizza nowadays can come with various styles of toppings and even dough of different texture. According to Averardo from Vino e Finanza, the three original toppings of Neapolitan pizza should be Margherita, Marinara and Friarielli e Salsiccia. 

To complement with the sourness of tomato, milky mozzarella and chewy dough, Averardo suggested the basic rule for wine pairing would be counterbalance.

Another important rule would be finding an Italian wine to enhance the whole dining experience, as he shared, “Being Italian, we strongly believe that local dishes should pair better with local wines.” 

Whether it’s the powerhouse Aglianico from Campania or neighboring Basilicata or zappy whites of Fiano, Greco or aromatic Falanghina, the regional wines provide abundant pairing options for Neapolitan pizza. 

Here are the cardinal rules and wine recommendations from Averardo. But perhaps most important rule of all, as he says is to , “Enjoy your pizzas, and my last recommendation is to never stop trying new recipes and wines, there is always something good to be discovered.”

Scroll through the pages to see all the pairings.

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