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Grilling With Wine: Seafood on the Grill
by Jonathon Alsop
July 2000


Rules are made to be broken, rigid rules especially, like white wine with fish, red wine with meat. In the last few years, wine lovers have started looking wider for great seafood wines, and there's a better rule of thumb: white wine with white seafood, pink wine with pink seafood, and red wine with red seafood.

Fresh summery white wines are a traditional combination with light white fish and shellfish, and that's fine, because it works great. Not too surprisingly, meaty red fish like tuna and shark go great with meaty red wines like zinfandel. Red wines are great with grilled food in general, and they are perfect with grilled white fish too, especially meaty swordfish and monkfish.

Here's a selection of readily available wines that really understand seafood and the grill.

White wines...

Lurton Pinot Gris (about $6, at Fifth Avenue Liquors in Framingham and others): Famous producers like the Lurton family often create second-label and even third-label wines that are more affordable and available than their first-labels. This one is very bright and lean with lots of green tart fruit, and a bargain at $6. Great with a grilled sea bass or ocean catfish.

Picpoul de Pinet (about $6, at Fifth Avenue, Marty's in Newton and others): "Picpoul" means "pucker up," and you'll know where the name came from as soon as you taste it. Smells like eau-de-starfruit, tastes like guava-pineapple-lemon-lime with high zippy acidity. Fantastic with raw bar.

Coppola Bianco (about $9, at Fifth Avenue, Marty's and others): This is a fun wine, a delicious blend of who-knows-what white grapes from California. Not sweet, but so much fruit it almost tastes sweet, rich and aromatic, and really good with a strong grilled white fish like red snapper.

St. Michael-Eppan Pinot Grigio (about $10, at Blanchard's in Boston, Fifth Avenue and others): Italian whites are famous for being lean, but this wine from the extreme north delivers much more body and richness than any typical pinot grigio. Bracing acidity balances beautifully with round, ripe pear and peach flavors. Great with shishkabob of grilled shrimp, scallops, melon and apricot.

Murphy-Goode Fume Blanc (about $13, at Brookline Liquor Mart, Wine Vault in Framingham, and others): Deliciousness is job one for any winemaker, and this wine is an absolute crowd-pleaser that captures the vitality of sauvignon blanc in a California style best described as "yummy." Buttery, toasty oak flavors are everywhere, the fruit is ripe and full with a great citrus zing at the end, beloved by all.

Chateau Cruzeau (about $14, at Fifth Avenue and others): Another Lurton wine, this time a traditional sauvignon blanc from Bordeaux with great style. The acidity and perfume are soaring, but the tropical fruit flavors are deep and luscious. Somewhere in the mix it tastes slightly stony, like a sidewalk smells right after it rains. Should come with its own icy plate of oysters.

Pink wines...

Chateau Aqueria Tavel Rose (about $14, at Wine Vault and others): Tavel, a neighbor of the famous Chateauneuf-du-Pape, makes the best rose in France, tasting like a red wine but drinking like a white wine. Chateau Aqueria is rich and creamy, full of flowers and red fruit flavors, perfect with grilled salmon.

Sanford Pinot Noir Vin Gris (about $15, at Brookline Liquor Mart, Fifth Avenue and others): You'd have to look twice to know this isn't a red wine, and you could still be wondering: extremely light red of extremely dark rose? This is a beautiful grilling wine that's great both chilled and porch temperature. My own personal favorite. Save it for meaty fish: tuna, swordfish and the like.

Red wines...

Dr. Taurino Salice Salentino (about $10, at Fifth Avenue, Wine Vault and others): Produced under the hot sun of southern Italy, it's no surprise this country blend is a great summer wine. Very rustic, nicely tannic, plain spoken and un-fancy, it keeps tasting great while it warms up. Very food-friendly to everything from grilled shrimp and scallops to marinated seafood steaks.

Beringer "Founder's Reserve" Pinot Noir (about $12, at Wine Vault and others): Light, chillable reds are hard to come by. This pinot noir is bright and fresh with good concentration and flavors. A little lighter, and it could be like the Vin Gris above. Grilled marinated portabello mushrooms with scallions are a great match.

Rosenblum Zinfandel (about $13, at Marty's, Wine Vault and others): Zinfandel is America's best red wine, and the Rosenblum is a superb all-purpose, all-occasion specimen. The fruit is dense and dark with classic blackberry and raspberry flavors. Great with all things grilled. Matches up especially well with hot marinades or barbecue sauces.

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