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Which wines go best with Charleston’s unmatched seafood?

on Wednesday, 05 October 2011. Posted in Eat This! Fall 2011, From the Cellar

Which wines go best with Charleston’s unmatched seafood?

The focus of this issue is seafood. Thanks to the efforts of our local shrimpers and fishermen, Charleston area restaurants are able to offer the freshest and finest in innovative seafood dishes, serving up their own versions of a wide range of menu items, including shrimp and grits, flounder, oysters and Breech Inlet clams. However, the meal, though delicious, isn’t complete without the right wine.

Which wines go best with Charleston’s unmatched seafood? The fruitier, sweeter wines grown in South Carolina probably would not be our best choice. In Europe, however, a wide range of wines have been enjoyed for centuries with seafood from the coastal regions of Spain, France, Italy, Sardinia and Austria. Wines grown along the warmer coasts of these countries are dry, crisp and acidic, complementing the flavors of many different types of seafood and the butter and citrus sauces they are prepared in.

Our featured wine in this issue is the Aragosta Vermentino di Sardegna Santa Maria La Palma. The label, which includes a spiny lobster, correctly indicates that this wine is perfectly paired with shellfish. With its flavors of fresh apple and almond and its crisp finish of lemon, it is sure to bring out the full flavor of seafood prepared with citrus sauces.

Vermentino grapes date back to 14th century Spain but are now most commonly grown in eastern Italy and northern Sardinia. Their vines often are found on slopes facing the sea; the constant exposure to sunlight and sea air help enhance their growth and flavor. In the newest issue of Decanter magazine, this wine was honored with the bronze medal among “World Wines for 2011.” Averaging around $35 a bottle at most restaurants, Aragosta Vermentino di Sardegna Santa Maria La Palma, which is in the top three Vermentinos in the world, won’t disappoint you.

Besides Vermentino, there are a number of other interesting and fun white wines you should try with seafood at home or at your favorite restaurant. Look for wines such as Picpoul de Pinet from Southern France, Albarino from Spain and the Austrian grape, Gruner Veltliner. All three are dry and crisp, with little residual sugars. Since none of these grapes can hold up to the exposure of oak barrels, they will not impart any flavors other than those that come from the grape skins.

You can also look outside the box by trying Pinot Grigio or Chardonnay. They are out there waiting for you to enjoy the next time you feel the need to be different.

By Amy Porter

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