The holiday shopping frenzy of Black Friday and Cyber Monday has come and gone, and everyone is probably a little lighter in the wallets because of it. So now that most of the materialistic aspects of Christmas are in our rearview mirror, its time to focus on what is truly important this season…family and friends coming together to celebrate this most joyous holiday. My family partakes in the traditional Italian Feast of the Seven Fishes for Christmas Eve, and it is always one of the most memorable meals of the year. I generally have the honor (and the pressure) of selecting the wines to go with the meal…talk about stress!
The traditional fishes that are served in the Feast are Calamari, Scungilli, Baccala, Shrimp, Clams, Mussels and some type of big fish (usually a snapper, sea trout, tuna or large shellfish like lobster or crab). However over the years the rules on what fish to serve have really loosened up, so these are by no means set in stone. What’s really fun about this meal is the fish can be prepared in so many different ways that it leaves your wine options wide open
Most of our dishes are prepared in a red marinara sauce (even the lobster tails and crab legs!) so I usually load up on reds for the main course, with some whites for the apps. But I know many families do the complete opposite and use a lot of white wine and cream sauces that lend themselves to a night of whites. Although if there are any old school Italian men attending your Christmas Eve dinner, I would highly recommend having some reds on hand…otherwise you may be sleeping with the seven fishes!
So below I have compiled a list of seven wines that are no brainer pairings for your Christmas Eve Fish Fest. There are literally hundreds of wines that will compliment this meal, but these seven wines are what I believe to be the best options based on various varietals, style and budget.
Feudi di San Gregorio Falanghina Sannio 2009 ($13-20) - Forget about Pinot Grigio! This is hands down my favorite white wine to pair with shellfish. Intense fruit and crisp acidity that is accentuated by just about any chilled seafood.
Dynamite Chardonnay North Coast 2008 ($7-10) - Tremendous value and one of the better seafood Chards out there, very fruit forward with just hints of oak and butter.
Pine Ridge Chenin Blanc-Viognier California 2009 ($10-15) - Loaded with citrus and lemon lime flavors, perfect for those white wine clam sauce dishes.
Frescobaldi Nipozzano Chianti Riserva 2007 ($18-25) – The Wine Enthusiast #1 Wine of the Year…and quite affordable. Perfect for those Fra Diavolo sauces, just be sure to let it breathe for about an hour before serving…makes a big difference for this wine.
Rodney Strong Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 ($20-30) - WWG #1 Wine of the Year! This wine drinks like a Sonoma/Napa Cab twice the price. Pair it up with any of your heavy seafood or meat dishes for the night if you forego the whole seven fishes theme.
Tormaresca Neprica, IGT Puglia 2008 ($8-12) - This is a bright red wine with lots of spicy red fruit and floral aromas. If you’re looking for that solid $10 bottle of red, this is it.
Taz Pinot Noir Santa Barbara 2008 ($20-25) - A Pinot with some balls! Cherry and berry fruit but with a real solid backbone to it. Great for the apps but can stand up to the heartier dishes as well.
Gaja 2007 Magari, Ca’ Macanda, Toscana IGT ($80-90) & Gaja 2007 Promis, Ca’ Macanda, Toscana IGT ($50-60)
Angelo Gaja is infamous for his Barolo and Barbaresco wines that usually fetch about $200-400 a bottle. These two Super Tuscans give you a chance to sample some of his outstanding juice at a relative value. Granted $50-90 is still a good chunk of change to spend on a bottle, but these are both pretty special wines that are sure to enhance your Christmas Feast.
Wishing you and yours a very Merry Christmas filled with family, fun, love and good fortune. Next post will be in 2012, hope to see you all here in the New Year!