Seven fish, one wine
Let's wrap up a snowy Christmas week with my best wishes to you for the season, whatever your choice of winter holiday observance, and a quick wine report before we get into the stocking hanging and snug-in-our-bed thing.
I doubt that we'll take on the full-fledged Feast of Seven Fishes here tonight: Seven fish and seafood dishes at a sitting is an awful lot for a family of two. But I've always loved the idea of this Italian-American Christmas Eve tradition, a seven-course (or, in some translations, 12- or 13-course) feast with a variable bill of fare that just about always includes some shellfish, a pasta dish, a whole fish and something made with dried cod (baccala). Maybe I'll honor the tradition in miniature with a feast of two fishes, or perhaps a fish and some shrimp.
In any case, fine seafood calls for fine wine, and today's tasting turns from Italy to France for one of the best choices I can imagine to accompany a broad range of seafood and fish: Sancerre, from the Loire, perhaps the ultimate expression of Sauvignon Blanc. Today's wine comes from Domaine Andre Neveu in Chavignol, the Sancerre village that many consider the best. It's the first Loire white I've seen from the hot 2003 vintage, a season that shows in a wine that's ripe and full, but with plenty of the snappy lemon-squirt acidity that makes a wine sing with fish, whether you're dining on one or seven.
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Domaine Andre Neveu 2003 Sancerre Le Grand Fricambault "Silex" ($17.99)
This transparent, very pale straw-color wine shows glints of brass. The trademark "grassy" scent of Sauvignon Blanc takes the lead in a complex aroma that blends tall grass, fresh hay and a whiff of mint as a high note. Full and bright in flavor, white fruit meets zippy acidity in a textured wine of more than medium body; snappy, bone-dry citric lemon-lime flavors persist in a long finish. U.S. importer: Wines of France Inc., Mountainside, N.J. (Dec. 22, 2004)
FOOD MATCH: I recommend it with the Italian Christmas Eve Feast of Seven Fish, but actually paired it in an even more exotic cross-cultural match: It made a great pairing with Cantonese shrimp with lobster sauce.
VALUE: We have the strong euro and weak dollar to thank for rising prices of recent vintages from Europe, but this excellent Sauvignon Blanc remains fairly, if not inexpensively, priced in the upper teens.
WHEN TO DRINK: Fruit, structure and balance will hold it for a year or two, but freshness is a virtue in Sancerre, and I would encourage drinking it up within the coming year.
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Friday, Dec. 24, 2004