Sunday, March 02, 2008

Big Wine with Giant Shrimp

The easy call for wine to go with shrimp is a brightly acidic white. Since there are so many of those, it's particularly easy to come up with something novel to delight your customers or friends. The bright light whites work especially well if the shrimp are presented near-naked without much saucing and with a slightly fatty coating. Think sauteed in butter, or grilled with olive oil and understated herbs.
But if the cook is more ambitious, these wines start to get watery pretty quickly. Let's say the dish is shrimp with pasta, and let's say that the pasta is dressed with a sauce made from onion and guajillo peppers and a touch of cream. Suppose you're complicating things a bit more by sprinkling the pasta with little cubes of crispy sweet potato. What's a sommelier to do?
One of the easy choices is a great big Condrieu laden with peach and apricot and lying thick in the mouth. Unfortunately, Condrieu is-for most of us-hideously expensive. Other Viognier-based wines have a pretty normal price/quality curve too. You might try an Orange Muscat, but I wish you luck finding one, especially a dry version. So what's left? Most of us would move to a red, but are there any whites that are big enough and cheap enough? How about the Argentine specialty Torrontes? (torr-on-TES)
This grape seems to be related to white Malvasia, but there's a big gap between Malvasia in the eastern Mediterranean and Torrontes which grows only in South America. Whatever the history, this is a chewy-bodied wine with a load of peach blossom and apricot aromas and refreshing citrus in the mouth. The best news is that two of the best examples to be found in the Delaware Valley are reasonably priced. Look for Alamos, which is bringing in a bottle at around $8 and Alta Vista Reserve at about $12.

Lynn Hoffman, author of The New Short Course in Wine