Wednesday, December 12, 2012

10 Best Italian Wines To Go With Seafood

Louisiana Gulf Oyster fired up "Chuckwagon Style"
Living in landlocked Dallas, Texas, I've found the evolution of seafood restaurants in the last 20 years to be nothing short of a revelation. Likewise, witnessing the onslaught of attractive Italian white wines to match up with the branzino, mussels, crab and monkfish that are arriving daily and fresh. It’s an Italian wine seafood lover’s paradise.

Some of the wines that I have enjoyed lately in conjunction with some of the delicious seafaring food are:


Terre Valse Cococciola – From Abruzzo – this is a clean, high acid, fresh fruit, dry wine from the Adriatic coast. This area is known for wonderful seafood (one of my favorite areas) and the indigenous Cococciola is enjoying a spike in popularity. It’s simple to see why. The wine is delicate, fresh, uncomplicated (but not stupid) and a thoroughly enjoyable value. It retails for around $15.

Great with Chef Lachlan's Riso Adriatico
Scarpetta Pinot Grigio – I know, I know, Pinot Grigio is so “1980”. Yeah, and it was also popular 50 years before that in Friuli. So what? A good wine is a good wine is a good wine, and Scarpetta is a laser clean, acid rich, fruit-laded delicious bomb. Whenever I see it on the list, I know my night won’t be lost trying to find a wine on otherwise boring wine lists. It rises to the level of a good white from the Loire and can serve well from appetizer to main course. I love this wine and I am so over Pinot Grigio. Shut up, buck up, and buy the wine. Go home happy. Retail under $20

Pio Cesare Arneis – I had an epiphany with this wine and fried chicken and a Beatles cover band. Because of that I started to keep a few bottles around for the occasional fried chicken, shrimp or sole dinner. It’s refreshing; it’s not a wimpy wine. How could any wine from Pio Boffa be wimpy, he’s an unabashed California wine lover. Fortunately this wine does not resemble California wine in any way, not that there is anything wrong with that. No, it is Roero-centric; lively, minerally, delicate and strong at the same time. Odd, how this chameleon of a wine can consecutively perform the service of both a beer and Chablis. But it does. And it is delicious. Retail hovering around $20


Chef John Tesar of Spoon deftly delivers Monkfish
Marchesi di Gresy Sauvignon Langhe DOC - A little harder to find all across America, but this wine is the bees knees. I do not know what got into Alberto Cisa Asinari di Grésy’s head to allocate valuable vineyard land for Sauvignon Blanc, but I am super glad he had that little moment of indulgence. The wine feels like where it came from and I have been there in the dead of winter and the end of summer. Both times the wine took on a simpatico-identity with whatever was going on around us. I love white wine, even when it is snowing, and this wine does not disappoint. In the summer, when the watermelons are getting ripe, this wine is dancing around the table, loving every minute of it. It’s a joyful wine, glad to be alive. Put it in your glass and make everyone happy. Retails somewhere around the $20 mark.

Librandi Critone – My last trip to Italy took me to Calabria. Duh, like anyone who has been reading this blog isn’t already sick of me going on and on about the wine and the food and God knows what else about my beloved Calabria. Live with it. I like the place. Anyway, Paolo Librandi convinced me about this wine, not by talking me into it, but by constant reinforcement, of the benefits of this wine, a blend of 90% Chardonnay and 10% Sauvignon Blanc. And while I am usually attracted to more indigenous fare, when a wine tastes good, who cares which grape it is made from? So my preconceptions shattered, I succumb to a lively wine that has the Calabrese spirit. Spicy, alcohol in check (12.5%), no oak whatsoever. Lots of fresh Calabrese wind and sun and soil. And that huge Ionian Sea right there with all kinds of seafaring delicacies. Yeah, that’s what I’m talking about. Retails for about $15.

From a coastal kitchen @San Benedetto del tronto on the Marche/Abruzzo border

Contadi Castaldi Franciacorta Brut – I probably drink too much of this wine. I neglect Prosecco because of it. But poor little Franciacorta has been left out of the limelight because of the enormous success of Prosecco. And I do love an underdog. Contadi Castaldi’s big sister, Bellavista, defined the category in Italy for premium sparkling wine. Contadi Castaldi is the little rebel. The wine is also more available to folks who want to drink Franciacorta more regularly than holidays, weddings, funerals and baptisms. Yep, it can be found for under $20 in most places, but that’s the icing on the cake. What you get for 20 clams is a wine that will sail with turbot, sole or branzino. And if that’s not good enough, get a bottle of the rosé (same price) to go with your line caught salmon. Both are worth every penny. Great for your “Meatless Monday” liaisons.

Cusumano Insolia – An indigenous Sicilian white that isn’t sweet? There is life beyond Marsala, and the Cusumano Empire has been making inroads to bring more and more of the indigenousity to the American table. The biggest problem with this wine is that it can be too big of a wine for the price asked (retails for around $12). This wine stands up to swordfish, but in doing so does not pimp itself out to oak. No, it is full and racy and ripe and clean and acidic and exotic and dry as a camel bone in the Sahara. Get you some.


Italy does crudo impeccably
Bava Thou Bianc – Roberto Bava is crazy. No, he is actually nuts, driving his brothers crazy with his chocolate and his Timothy Leary philosophy of life. But he is a genius. When he goes to Japan and China (a trip I'd  love to take with him) everyone loves his white wine. Folks who think they are supposed to love red wine. And then the crudo comes out and everybody is diving for the Thou Bianc Chardonnay Piemonte DOC. Again, a wine that sells for (well under) $20. This wine is like pulverized marble, so soft and so minerally and so darn tasty. Take that, Marco Polo.

Strasserhof Kerner
- I have a gal pal who owns a Thai restaurant nearby. Her mom cooks. And boy, can her mom cook. But the cuisine from her area is different than the garden variety Thai that dots American strip centers. Her mom reaches down into her soul for level of richness and serves it up in a fiery hot spicy but extremely well balanced manner. All this to say the Strasserhof Kerner from the Valle Isarco in northern Alto Adige is as different an Italian white wine as my friend’s mom’s Thai cooking. But they are a match in heaven. I’ve said nothing about the wine yet, but the fruit, while intense, is measured, allowing the backbone to stand straight up. The wine is thirst quenching in a way a Txakolina is, but delicious in the way a Mittel-Mosel Riesling is. Perfect harmony. A great 1st date wine, when both sides are feeling things out, putting their toes in the water ever so delicately. Watch out, this wine might have you skinny dipping before the end of the night. A little pricier, coming in across the US at around $30 or under.
Caught in the act

And lastly, if you are not a white wine lover, there's this little gem, the Cleto Chiarli Lambrusco di Sorbara Vecchia Modena. Not quite red, more rosé in my eyes, but not a lesser wine by any means.

I have written too many times about this wine. I just love it. It is perfectly perfect. And with New Orleans style BBQ shrimp or a good old sloppy crawfish boil, this is the wine to grab by the neck and slurp it down. We had it this past summer with Dungeness crab, wild Alaska salmon, salmon burgers, you name it. It went down well. Retail about $13. Buy at least 6; you might get some new friends in the exchange.

That’s it – my top 10 (or 11 if you count the Franciacorta Rosé). Happy holidays. And remember if you partake in the Italian-American tradition during the holidays, the so-called Feast of the 7 Fishes, here are some wines that you can enjoy and they won’t break the bank. For those of you who own a bank, open it up and let the money go out to the farmers and winemakers who are making our lives so much more pleasant because of these wonderful Italian wines.

Paola & Paolo - winemakers (and seafood lovers) from the Marche coast

written and (joyfully) photographed by Alfonso Cevola limited rights reserved On the Wine Trail in Italy

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1 comment:

Apartments for sale in Jesolo said...

Thank you for the recommendations, by the way that grilled fish looks delicious.

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