Is Bolla the Official Wine of Pizza?

Is Bolla the Official Wine of Pizza?

Bolla celebrates its 125th anniversary in 2008 and so has seen fit to launch a campaign to establish the well-known line of Italian wines as the “Official Wine of Pizza.”

Of course the “Official” designation lacks legal significance, short of an act of Congress, but Bolla yet has a point. The fruity, tasty Bolla wines I tasted recently at John's Pizzeria in Manhattan made a splendid marriage with a number of high quality pizza offerings. Bolla, by the way, is sponsoring the U.S. Pizza team in tours across the country. The Pizza team members perform astonishing acrobatics with—you guessed it—pizza dough. (For you food science buffs, it's the high gluten dough used for pizza that facilitates these aerobatic marvels.)

I met with Dr. Maurizio Ferri, Bolla's Chief Winemaker, who had flown in from the winery's headquarters in Verona, Italy, to taste through a number of the wine offerings before the crowd moved in to combine the wine with John's excellent pizza. We started with several whites before moving on through some of the reds.

The Bolla Soave is 90% Garganega, 10% Trebbiano di Soave, and features good acidity with pleasant peach, light citrus, and mineral notes. “We stop malolactic fermentation in the middle with this wine” Ferri tells me, “in order to conserve acidity and ensure a fresh taste.” I found the wine very easy to drink, fairly full in the mouth, and in fact, with that minerality, an excellent wine to whet the appetite for food.

The Bolla Riesling, sourced in the Italian province of Pavia and the product of limestone and sandstone soils, is another wine that undergoes only partial malo. This is an IGT (Indicazione Geografica Tipica) wine, in this case representing the hilly region between the Po River and the Apennines. Key notes of the wine are lemon and grapefruit, with a satisfying balance between sweetness and acidity.

The Bolla Pinot Grigio, sourced mostly in the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region of northeast Italy with contributions from the Veneto and Trentino, and also an IGT wine, goes down fairly smoothly as one would expect from this widely popular variety. The dry finish maintained good acidity, some pleasant minerality, and had a floral touch at the end.

Moving on to the reds, I enjoyed the Bolla Pinot Noir, IGT Villa Provincia di Pavia. The wine is light-colored as Pinot Noir ought to be, with solid strawberry on the nose, low tannins, no wood aging of any kind, very well-integrated acidity, and in this case the malolactic fermentation has run its course in the interest of softness. The result is delicate and elegant, yet nicely fruity.

On to the wine I nearly grew up on, the Bolla Valpolicella. The wine is based on the traditional Corvina grape (60%) with its usual buddies Molinara and Rondinella. This wine is aged in large casks rather than barrels, allowing the wood to shepherd the wine through maturation without adding too many wood tannins or other elements. The nose is lovely: dried leaves, blackberry, mushrooms, black pepper. The wine is of medium acidity, low tannin, fruity and very friendly with food (that's spelled p-i-z-z-a).

Bolla's DOCG Chanti, a quintessentially food-friendly wine, is created from 85% Sangiovese Grosso grapes with 15% Canaiolo, an indigenous local variety. The wine is carefully vinified to maximize skin contact yet keep tannins manageable by minimizing contact with stems and seeds. The wine is fresh, fruity, with the good acid direction you need to match the more complicated pizza toppings. I saw a lot of this wine consumed at John's with nearly all the varieties of pizza.

The big wine of the evening was of course the Bolla Amarone, which is produced from the same grapes as the Valpolicella, but then the similarity ends rather dramatically. Hand-picked grapes are dried for three months on mats between September and January, losing in the process more than 30% of their water content. The concentrated grapes are then fermented to dryness and aged in wood for a minimum of two years. “This drying process only works with the Corvina grape,” Ferri explains. “You wouldn't get the same results if you tried to dry Cabernet Sauvignon. The Corvina goes through a special metabolic process that results in a wine with wonderful extraction and plenty of glycerine.” Indeed, as Ferri suggests, the Amarone has scant residual sugar, yet tastes sweet because of the glycerine, with notes of forest floor, mushroom, stewed fruit and licorice. This is a wine that “goes with” pizza to be sure, but I would match any hearty Italian dish with the Amarone. The wine itself is so extracted you could eat it with a knife and fork (even if you tend to be less delicate with your pizza slices).

Of course, all these Bolla wines are designed for easy drinking, with acidity that stands up to the acidity in pizza, which is based, after all, on the acidity in the tomato, and a good solid fruitiness that also matches the sweetness of the best varieties of tomato (the kind you find in good pizza). While I myself lean towards the red wines, the several whites were lovely, especially the Soave. The Official Wine of Pizza? All right, considering the breadth of Bolla's product line, and the food-friendly styles they have been producing for so many years, I give my vote.

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Bolla wines have been accompanying pizza since...

food writer Elliot Essman James Beard Foundation Journalism Award
James Beard Award Nominee Elliot Essman

food writer Elliot Essman James Beard Foundation Journalism Award


Maurizio Ferri and Elliot Essman

The author (left) samples Bolla wines with Bolla's Chief Winemaker Maurizio Ferri.

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