Crab Wines

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What to pair with the other white meat

by Courtney Cochran

Come mid-November each year, crustaceans become decidedly de rigueur as a dining alternative to all the rich savory fare that frequents the table this time of year.

I don't know about you, but I reach a very certain point of saturation when it comes to the likes of ubiquitous holiday meats turkey, ham and roast. Consuming them throughout the holiday season can be overwhelming to a lass like me who's accustomed to so-called California cuisine, with its emphasis on fresh veggies and lean meats.

Enter audible sigh of relief, then - at least on my part! - when crab season arrives. Every year it seems to come just in time to give respite to like-minded diners who're searching for a little levity amidst all the hearty foods so popular during the cool months.

And, since crab season lasts from mid-November through spring, there's plenty of time to indulge in this delicious white meat, whether you're taking a break from bigger stuff or just looking to add a new protein to your meat mix.

Regardless, this all begs a critical question: which wines should you look to when enjoying the other other white meat?

Grand Cru Chablis
Quite possibly the world's most famous rendering of the Chardonnay grape, Grand Cru Chablis boasts remarkably brisk acidity alongside a richness rarely seen in such zippy wine. Climatically similar to the downright cold Champagne district not far away, Chablis is actually part of Burgundy, the other great area for Chardonnay in France.

But Chablis, at its best, packs more minerality and laser-focused acidity into the glass than any Burgundy from the Cote d'Or - the Golden Coast - that region's hot bed for luscious full-bodied Chards. Instead, Chablis is more accurately compared to fish-friendly Sauvignon Blanc, with its lightness of body ideally suited to shellfish.

Add to this lightness a surprising richness only found in Chardonnay and you've got the perfect white wine for crab, which is, after all, a rather rich white meat. Better yet, the subtle buttery notes found in Chablis marry beautifully with the clarified butter we so often dip crab into, making a match more or less made in culinary heaven. Also expect notes of green apple, citrus squirt and subtle baking spice.

Quick notes: Just 2% of all Chablis production is Grand Cru, the best quality stuff and definitely worth searching out. There are seven Grand Crus in the area, the best of which are Vaudésir, Les Preuses and Les Clos.

Vintage California Sparkling Wine
Given that the crustaceans we're so enthusiastically tucking into this time of year come from our very own California coast, it only seems appropriate to "hire from within," so to speak, when choosing another wine to pair with the delicious stuff. Let's turn to Northern California's cool Mendocino County, in that case, where Roederer Estate is making dynamite traditional method sparkling wine that's perfect for pairing with crab.

Founded by Champagne guru Louis Roederer in the mid-80s, Roederer Estate is known for producing the first sparkling wine made outside of Champagne that actually rivals some of the better stuff made in that famous district. The California outpost's vintage bottling, called L'Ermitage, is the Rolls Royce of their fleet and boasts the rich toasty notes typical of Champagne alongside baked apple, floral and honey notes.

Because it's only made in exceptional years from the best lots of grapes, L'Ermitage is an absolute treat and - you guessed it! - an ideal match for crab, also a delicacy. And, since it hails from a cool climate the stuff boasts the firm acidity that's a necessity when pairing wine with shellfish. L'Ermitage backs all this up with a creamy texture and fine bubbles, making for a decadent white wine that's perfect for our new favorite white meat.

Quick notes: The 1999 vintage of L'Ermitage is available now and drinking beautifully.

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1 Comments

Today, I just opened a bottle of 2004 Quivera "Anderson Ranch" Zinfandel. There's nothing I can say other than "It was flat out beautiful."

I hope this doesn't sound too crazy. I drank the Zin with a spiced up shrimp dish, but thought to myself, "This would be great with crab."

I don't think the better Dry Creek zins get enough credit for how well they drink after five years or so. While the big bramble fruit aromas had settled down to a moderate tone, the taste was better and much more food friendly than when it was released a few years ago.

So complex and intriguing. I am just blown away.

I brought the wine back to West Virginia from a visit to Sonoma County in the summer of 2007. It has been stored in a cabinet in my kitchen (certainly warmer than cool cellar temperature) since that time.

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