Does Riesling or Chardonnay go better with crudo, the Italian approach to raw fish? I am planning to prepare a crudo course to start a big dinner later this month to celebrate a milestone birthday. My usual choice for raw fish dishes is a light, fragrant, non-oaked dry white wine from Friuli, or perhaps a Falanghina from Campania, because of its crisp texture. But I wondered if something a bit more elevated and mature might work, since all the other wines on this menu are going to be on the older side.
To test the waters, I included the crudo plate in a dinner I served to friends last week, and served two wines with it. I opened an older Australian Riesling from Clare and a Chardonnay from Margaret River. I was curious how the more mature flavors of the Riesling would perform with the fish, and whether the oak in the Chardonnay would get in the way.
From a fish market in Japantown here in San Francisco, I bought some hirame (sole) and hamachi (yellowtail). A border of thinly sliced cucumber framed a few slices of the sole, drizzled with a fresh 2006 olive oil and sprinkled it with alae salt from Hawaii. For garnish, I topped it with a small thatch of onion sprouts and a spoonful of ikura (salmon roe). For the yellowtail, I concocted a wasabi cream by adding enough milk to the powder to create a creamy texture. I put the cream in a small squeeze bottle and squeezed a zigzag over the yellowtail, seasoned with some gray sea salt.
The flavors on the plate worked great. But how did they do with the wine? There was a slight preference for the Riesling, which allowed its fruit character to bloom with both preparations. But I was surprised at how well the Chardonnay did. The underlying toastiness from the oak in the Chardonnay actually matched up well with the both the horseradish tones of the wasabi and the fresh, peppery olive oil on the sole.
That was a relief, since a couple of bottles of Stony Hill Chardonnay 1994 had been earmarked for that slot in the big dinner. Although a big, fat Chardonnay would never do well, I have confidence that Stony Hill's crisp texture and well modulated oak aren't likely to get in the way.
Rick Klotz — Lake — January 2, 2007 8:28pm ET
Harvey Steiman — San Francisco, CA — January 2, 2007 11:21pm ET
Kenneth Kuiken — Naples — January 4, 2007 12:30pm ET
Giovanni Cardullo Inc — January 4, 2007 4:55pm ET
Harvey Steiman — San Francisco, CA — January 5, 2007 11:58am ET
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