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.
Durand Reserve Sancerre 2014 ($20-25) – This is a wine that overdelivers on quality vs. price each vintage. Piercing acidity and a flinty minerality make it ideal for those chilled seafood dishes/
Fox Run Reserve Chardonnay Seneca Lake, Kaiser Vineyard 2012 ($15-20) – Lovely balance of acidity, green apple fruit, banana and toasty oak lends itself perfectly as a lobster companion.
Pine Ridge Chenin Blanc-Viognier California 2014 ($10-15) – Loaded with citrus and lemon lime flavors, perfect for those white wine clam sauce dishes. One of my first true white wine loves.
Villa Antinori Chianti Classico Riserva ($25-30) – I was pretty shocked at the depth and complexity of this wine. Dried, sour cherry with smoke, earth and toasted almond notes. The acidity will drive through all of those red based sauces.
Hanna Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 ($20-30) – Simply put… I just love this wine. Dense and vibrant red and black cherry fruit with hazelnut and vanilla notes and a plush mouthfeel. A big boy with a flash of elegance.
Tormaresca Neprica, IGT Puglia 2013 ($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.
Villa Mt. Eden Pinot Noir Santa Maria Valley 2009 ($12-15) – A few years of bottle age has done some wonderful things to this affordable Pinot. Soft tannins, vibrant acidity and mature fruit gives this some serious depth and structure.
Gaja Promis, Toscana 2012 ($50-60)
Angelo Gaja is infamous for his Barolo and Barbaresco wines that usually fetch about $200-400 a bottle. This Super Tuscan gives you a chance to sample some of his outstanding juice at a relative value. Granted $60 is still a good chunk of change to spend on a bottle, but this is a pretty special wine that is sure to enhance your Christmas Feast.
Wishing you and yours a very Merry Christmas!