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Jan 29, 2008 06:55 AM

Wine for spicy cioppino?

I need pairing suggestions, please, for a special dinner that includes a spicy, rich cioppino. I'm a little confused as I've received quite conflicting suggestions from various sources -- some suggest a sauvignon blanc, others a zinfandel...but I know I always get such fantastic advice here!

Thank you --nothing too pricey -- something in the $20 range would be fine.

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  1. Zin is classic. If you go that route, avoid the high-alcohol, heavily oaked monster wines and look for one of the increasingly rare light and fruity "Beaujolais" style Zins that are almost certainly closer to what the North Beach fishermen who invented the pairing made and drank. Other possibilities (always in the light and fruity vein): Barbera, Grenache, Tempranillo, Gamay. Zin or not, serve the wine more than slightly chilled.

    Sauvignon Blanc, especially the more restrained examples, Chardonnay, Italian/Sicilian whites, Vermentino, etc. all make better gastronomic sense, IMO. Go MOR, avoiding the bone-driest and the super-ripe, heavily oaked wines.

    8 Replies
    1. re: carswell

      Oh, and don't forget: champagne* (and in this case rosé champagne) goes with just about everything.

      *or a similar bubbly

      1. re: carswell

        Rosé, including Rosato or Ceresuolo (Italian) or Rosado (Spain).
        There are many inexpensive, good options here, as little as $12/bottle.

        OR Rosé Champagne.

        My sense: A white wine is too light, with not enough heft to stand up to the tomato and spices; a red is too heavy and not lively enough.
        Rosé, especially its bubbly version, deals with the flavors and minor heat nicely.

        Please see the wine recommendations on this recent CH thread for pairing a similar spicy tomato seafood dish -- Lobster Fra Diavolo -- though, In the San Francisco Bay Area where I am, the level of spicy heat in cioppino is usually quite low so as not to overwhelm the subtle flavors of the seafood:

        1. re: maria lorraine

          VERY happy to see this old thread and your rec. I'd been thinking sparkling rose' but then read an article about Tadich servers recommending zin and why. I'm going with the rose' :) We're going to be in Mill Valley over Christmas and are planning cioppino for a special dinner with 'the kids.'

          1. re: c oliver

            It's such a Christmas dish in the SF Bay Area. Do you have a good recipe you can recommend or a link?

            This time of year, I'm loving gutsy, flavorful one-pot meals, of which cioppino is one, especially for entertaining.

            Another question, got a good rec for a credible restaurant one in the SF Bay Area?

            1. re: maria lorraine


              This is supposed to be the Tadich recipe. I've gotten the advice that I can make the fish stock way ahead and freeze and then cook all the non-fish components the day before.

              1. re: maria lorraine

                maria lorraine: my restaurant meal of the year this year was at Incanto -- Chris Cosentino's nose to tail place in San Francisco. (can't remember the name of the neighborhood). Food, service, ambiance were all top notch. Can't wait to get out there to go there again.

                And of course, there's the wonderful Zuni Cafe...

                1. re: ChefJune

                  I believe ML was asking about a place that serve cioppino.

                  Incanto is in Noe Valley.

                  1. re: c oliver

                    In any case, glad to hear you both weigh in. I think I'll try Hog
                    Island's cioppino in the Oxbow Market in Napa, that Cortez recommended.

                    Chef June, I'm a big fan of Incanto; I've had incredible meals there and wonderful times with friends over meals.

                    And, sentimentally, perhaps, I'm mourning Judy Rodgers of Zuni (we are from the same Midwestern town), and in honor of her, a fresh chicken is now "salting" in the first stage of making her incredible Roast Chicken and Bread Salad for dinner tomorrow.

                    I've always loved Zuni and never thought it went out of style. The food was always flavorful, with lip-smacking satiety, and the feel of the place was both neighborhood-y and international. Judy was kind to me and a great teacher. I'll miss her. Best. ML

      2. Italian based makes the most sense to me and personally, a white would be my first choice. Besides vermentino, you could try a vernaccia, a rosato, dry muscadet, Falanghia or greco di tufo.

        1. Alot of white wines "work" here... chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, muscadet, soave, kabinett rieslings.... viognier would probably fly too especially if you have some lobster in there...

          My first personal choice is Chardonnay... it's so nice with the shrimp, crab, cod... great with garlic and basil.... 2nd probably a nice Soave Classico, which adds an "italian" dimension...

          If the dish has a high tomato content then I'd lean a bit more more towards sauvignon blanc...

          1. I like sauvignon blanc (the ones that lean towards strong fruit, not the strongly grassy ones), and am a big fan of zinfandels.

            But for cioppino, and I love cioppino- I've found that I really like some California sangioveses. One winery, in particular, Vino Noceto, makes a number of really flavorful sangioveses. Their regular sangio is around $14-17, depending upon where you buy it. I think the current release of the regular sangio, the 2005 still needs a bit more time in the bottle. I think it's drinking really light. For a spicy, rich cioppino, I'd prefer their Riserva or Marmellata, in the mid $20s. If you could find a 2004 or 2003 regular sangio at a store, it would probably be around $15 and the depth of flavor would be good.
            In Northern California, you should be able to find it in a number of locations.

            You might want to get a red and a white, and compare your reactions to the pairing. One of my favorite well-priced sauvignon blancs is Mason, around $14-16.

            Hope this is helpful!

            1. Somehow white wine doesn't compute with this dish for me. I recommend a medium, drinkable Italian red like Montepulciano d'Abruzzo.