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Senior editor MaryAnn Worobiec has been with Wine Spectator since 1997. She tastes New Zealand wines and California Petite Sirah, Sauvignon Blanc and "other" whites.
MaryAnn Worobiec

A Crisp White for a Crab Feast

Spy Valley Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough 2009

MaryAnn Worobiec
Posted: December 24, 2009

Recently I joked that my favorite season—next to baseball season—is crab season in Northern California. But as soon as the words left my lips, I realized how true they were.

Every year, starting around Thanksgiving, I start paying attention to when live local Dungeness crabs become available. The season only lasts a couple of months, and I usually plan a handful of meals around this seasonal ingredient. My favorite crab meal is always the first one each year, and I always keep it simple to give the crab the spotlight.

This year, I purchased two crabs already cooked, cleaned and cracked from my favorite fishmonger. I laid newspaper out on the table, and served them with some melted butter, lemon wedges and a crusty loaf of sourdough that I warmed in the oven, slathered with butter and some freshly crushed garlic. Then my boyfriend and I dug in.

I served a well-chilled bottle of Spy Valley Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough 2009 ($19) with the meal. The bright acidity and vibrant profile of this New Zealand white acted like a squirt of lemon juice with the crab. I loved the ripe citrus flavors of lemon and lime, and the wine did a great job of both brightening the meal and refreshing my palate between luxurious bites. I rated the wine 90 points, non-blind. Next up, oven-roasted Dungeness crab, probably with a Viognier!

WineSpectator.com members: Get scores and tasting notes for more recently rated New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs, plus our quick list of Top Values among New Zealand whites.

Brad Kanipe
GA —  December 24, 2009 10:46am ET
Yumm. Looking forward to the next installment.
Morewine Bishar
Del Mar, California —  December 26, 2009 2:01pm ET
Good start on the crab meal/tastings! Be sure to include Riesling in the line-up. I'd be interested in a Kabinett / Spatlese comparison to look at the issue of sweet/dry balance and the crabs. Tyrell's Karthauserhof estate make wines that should work very well with your crab. The "steely" acidity of the Ruwer Valley makes them, in my own experience, perfect matches for various shellfish and related sorts of seafood.

Gerald Ansel
Fullerton, Calif —  December 27, 2009 8:52am ET
Great article. I'm also a big fan of crab, but my attentions usually turn toward Alaskan King Crab legs. Would your pairing suggestions work with that varietal?
Maryann Worobiec
Napa, CA —  December 28, 2009 1:04pm ET
Morewine--most of my colleagues here in the Napa office agree with you that Riesling is the way to go. But that first crab meal is all about the anticipation, and for me that includes a Sauvignon Blanc. I hope I'll have many more crab tales to tell before the season is over, including a Riesling one.

Gerald--It's been years since I've had Alaskan King Crab, so I'm not sure I could compare the differences in taste or texture. But when it comes to pairing food and wine, much of my decision depends on how something is prepared. If you're enjoying crab chilled and simple like I did, I think sticking with a crisp white is a good idea, like a Sauvignon Blanc or Riesling. If it's going to be steamed or roasted, something richer like a Viognier or Chardonnay. If it's going to be in a sauce, I'd try to match a wine with what the dominant flavors in the sauce are. Hope that helps!
Jim Martin
Canada —  December 29, 2009 1:59am ET
My last choice would be Dungeness. I would agree with Gerald that Alaska King would be the way to go. Dungeness is too much work for the amount of meat.
David Harper
Annapolis MD —  December 29, 2009 6:47pm ET
Livio Felluga 2008 Pinot Grigio is not crisp, but neither is crab. This bottle is the best PG I've ever had and it has a range of tastes which went very well with lots Prince Edward Island oysters on Christmas day. Suspect it would do very nicely with the sweetness of good crab.

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