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George Edwards

Our annual Christmas family gathering is nourished with the wife's delicious tomato- and assorted seafood-based soup. The year the latter included cod, prawns and crab. And I decided that when it came to wine selections I would go international, leading off with the most versatile California white in my experience, Pine Ridge Chenin Blanc-Viognier Blend, followed by a French Pinot Blanc from Alsace, a Dry Chenin Blanc from South Africa, a Sauvignon Blanc from Chile, a top-notch Dry Malbec Rose from Argentina and a tasty Tuscan red blend of Sangiovese, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. Let the games begin.

That the Pine Ridge would not only lead off the exploration but also lead the pack in its success seemed obvious given the 100percent positive seafood pairings that ranged from salmon and prawns to scallops, sandabs and Paella over nine of the 13 vintages under my belt. And so it was that this California representative was one of three wines that received the top rating of the evening with the cioppino while passing muster with the cod, earning considerable praise with the prawn and achieving a "highly recommended" with the crab. Alas, the 2011 ($14.95, 12percent alcohol, screw cap) is no longer in stock, but I can't wait to put the 2012 to the test when it is released in mid- to late January.

The Lucien Albrecht Cuvee Balthazar Pinot Blanc 2011 ($14.95, 13percent alcohol, screw cap) also had admirable seafood history that included lobster, prawns, smoked salmon, scallops, clams and crab over four vintages.


It also received a top cioppino rating and, while falling back a notch with the cod (although it worked), it showed the same affection for the prawn, while taking highly recommended first place with the crab — the optimal crustacean vino. By the way, it has earned placement in the pork and poultry sections of WineMarket while scoring with a wide, wide range of veggies. Pinot Blanc in general is quite food friendly.

The third noteworthy wine of the top rating triumvirate is the Indaba Chenin Blanc 2011 ($11.50, 13.5, screw cap) from South Africa. This one slightly liked both the cod and prawns and, like all other whites and rosés, was most fond of the crab. And the Chenin seafood pairing successes are documented across quite a spectrum of categories and preparations. This varietal loves food. By the way, "Indaba is the traditional Zulu forum for sharing ideas". Just thought you should know.

Next in line was the Yali Lolol Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2011 ($9.50, 12.5, screw cap) from Chile. This signature Chilean white received a recommended rating with all elements of the seafood soup, showing a slight preference for the prawns and, of course, the crab.

You may recall that I rank Dry Rosé as the second most food versatile wine type after Riesling and Moscato and so the tasty interplay of the cioppino with the Crios Mendoza Malbec Rose 2011 ($12.95, 14, screw cap) from Argentina was no surprise. This one proved an explosive, flavorful combo with the prawns, and also adored the crab.

And finally, I opted to include an Italian red blend given the origin of the meal and the fact that Mazzei Badiola Toscana (70percent Sangiovese, 20percent Merlot, 10percent Cabernet Sauvignon, $15.95, 13.5 percent alcohol) from the marvelous '09 vintage already had some positive pairing creds. Surprisingly, the tomato base of the soup brought out some edges in the wine but it liked the cod and earned a "nice combo" rating with the prawns; oops, out of crab.

I can't wait for next year's Christmas adventure.

George Edwards is the owner and operator of WineMarket in Pacific Grove. E-mail him directly at or visit his Web site at