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