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6:00am Saturday 28th September 2013 in Lifestyle
Fancy a drink? Our drinks columnist Sam Wylie-Harris suggests some attractive whites to pair with shellfish and seafood.
Catch of the day
Rock oysters are available all year long, but the rough, grey shells of native oysters only headline the menu in fashionable watering holes when there is an 'r' in the month.
It may seem traditional to wash down your plate of half-a-dozen with a glass of fizz, but if you don't like the acidity that resonates in champagne, muscadet is oysters' favourite muse - and a cheaper alternative to pair with this raw delicacy.
A still dry white from the western end of the Loire valley where the river flows into the Atlantic, muscadet is made from the melon de bourgogne grape and the best examples come from the Muscadet Sevre et Main appellation - home to 'sur lie' wines which are left in contact with the yeast for an extended period of time for complexity and richness, and bottled immediately for extra freshness.
To recreate this classic regional combo at home, try a glass of Chateau Salmoniere Muscadet Sevre et Maine Sur Lie 2012, France (£6.50, Asda) with oysters or moules mariniere. The wine has some lemony weight to it with a pleasant, prickly sensation and a delicious, minerally freshness.
With a slightly more distinctive, yeasty aroma for an added creaminess that follows through with crisp acidity on the finish, Domaine Fief de la Brie Muscadet Sevre et Maine Sur Lie 2012, France (£7.90, www.tanners-wines.co.uk) is another delicious example from an excellent vintage to remind us how well muscadet - in the hands of a good producer - complements all sorts of shellfish.
Local crustacea stalls are also blessed with healthy stocks of scallops this time of year and a zippy sauvignon blanc from Touraine in the Loire such as Waitrose Sauvignon Blanc 2012 Touraine, France (£7.99, Waitrose) with lively gooseberry and citrus notes will remind us how to look beyond the fine wine labels of Sancerre and Pouilly-Fume for delightful and affordable crisp, dry whites to complement seared scallops.
Alternatively, if you prefer the herbaceous, raciness of a Kiwi sauvignon blanc, try Ara Sauvignon Blanc 2012, Marlborough, New Zealand (£9.99, Tesco) which has a real kick to it with tropical passion fruit on the nose and a medley of guava, passion fruit and pineapple on the mouthfeel with enough zing to cope with grilled mackerel or fish 'n' chips.
Galicia, the seafood capital of Spain, is fast becoming known for its albarino from the Rias Baixas region where the maritime influence of the Atlantic Ocean produces wonderfully, fresh, aromatic wines that are food-friendly and ever-so trendy. For a classy example, try The Society's Exhibition Albarino 2012, Spain (£12.95, www.thewinesociety.com) with soft ripe peach and melon fruit flavours balanced by a delicate veil of minerality, and delicious freshness on the finish which exudes a customary saline edge.
A creamy fish pie cries out for a crisp, fruity white to balance the richness of the sauce and Les Dauphins Cotes du Rhone Reserve Blanc 2012, France (£6.79, Tesco) is keenly priced for such a great tasting everyday drinker with a pretty label to match. A blend of 63% grenache, 7% marsanne and 30% viognier for a generous dose of apricot and peach on the lively finish.
Petit Chablis hails from the same Burgundy region as its more illustrious and expensive namesakes (Chablis, Chablis Premier Cru and Chablis Grand Cru), but this entry-level style shouldn't be overlooked when pairing its youthful freshness with oysters or white fish. Try Domaine Dampt Petit Chablis Vieilles Vignes, 2012, France (£12.49, www.laithwaites.co.uk), made from old-vine chardonnay, it has delicate floral aromas with the same minerality that we look for in a good Chablis, and even a hint of hazelnut on the expressive, steely finish. Indeed, the only thing that's missing from this bright white is the designer price-tag.
:: Best buy
A veritable vermouth... Martini's 150th anniversary celebrations continue to roll on with the release of their limited edition Martini Gran Lusso (£35.99, www.selfridges.com).
More than eight years in the making, single-batch Gran Lusso vermouth marries the honeyed softness of aged moscato with aromatic herbs, trebbiano white wine from Emilia-Romagna, and barbera red from the Piedmont region of Northern Italy to create a 'sweet-bitter' taste profile.
Meaning "Grand luxury" in Italian, Gran Lusso can be used as a mixer in cocktails, or simply poured over ice with a slice of grapefruit peel to garnish.
:: Liquid news
Gaucho champions the mighty malbec... Argentinian restaurant chain Gaucho announced the winners of the Gaucho Argentine Winemaker Awards 2013 and Manos Negras Malbec 2009, Mendoza (£18.75, minimum order 6 bottles, Cavas de Gaucho, 020 7734 4040) was crowned 'Wine of the Year'.
Following a 12-week judging process, Manos Negras was the most admired wine in a shortlist of Matias Riccitelli, Vineyard Selection Malbec 2011; Emma Zuccardi, Bonarda 2011; Diamandes, Viognier 2010; and Catena 'Appellation San Carlos' Cabernet Franc 2010.
Gaucho's Director of Wines Phil Crozier says: "These awards give Gaucho the opportunity to highlight and celebrate some of the most innovative and talented winemakers in the wine world today."
For more info visit www.gauchorestaurants.com
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