While this is a classic Italian, and more specifically Southern Italian, way of celebrating Christmas Eve, its broad appeal is undeniable. What could be better than a meal composed of seven small plates of perfectly prepared fish dishes?
Typically, the dishes include some fried seafood, some marinated seafood, some braised or baked stuffed seafood, and a pasta course. With such a diversity of dishes, it can be a challenge to pair wines with this feast, but the solution is simple: stick with a Southern Italian white. In my opinion, Fiano di Avellino is the best white of Southern Italy, so why look elsewhere? With enough acidity to balance out the marinated and fried dishes, Fiano also brings a lovely balance of minerality and fruit to the table, weaving its way through all the complex flavors of a classic Feast of Seven Fishes!
You might notice that the wines I am recommending are not the current releases for each producer. I prefer Fiano with a year or three of age as I find that the wines really open up and become more complex over this modest period of time.
Seafood and Pasta image via Shutterstock
Top Fiano di Avellino from GDP
2008 Guido Marsella Fiano di Avellino $22
This smells of mineral rich earth and bonfires, quartz with some lightly dried fruit and floral notes. In the mouth, this is focused and well-defined. It's not a fruity wine, instead offering layers of quartz, mineral smoke and candlewax over base notes of dried citrus peels. The beauty here is in the purity and length that this wine brings to the table. The finish is so vibrant and long. It is absolutely twangy with mineral notes that are brisk and refreshing. An exciting wine. 92pts
2009 Romano Clelia Fiano di Avellino Colli di Lapio $25
Floral and peachy on the noise, this gains complexity with air to reveal a light almond milk note and lovely hints of a mineral base. In the mouth, one finds a vibrant, medium-bodied white wine that delivers layers of peach, melon and tart apple flavors wrapped in mineral and almond notes. A really lovely and complex example of Fiano that finishes with a salty, mineral twang. This is delicious and shows off the freshness of youth coupled with subtle, evolving complexity. 92pts
2009 Pietracupa Fiano di Avellino $36
Quite earthy on the nose, this shows off woodsy aromas with rather high-toned citrus accent notes. On the palate, this is fairly rich with a classic nutty, earthy and smoked almond set of flavors that is well balanced with citrus fruits. It's a taut wine and one that may surprise people looking for more roundness and fruit, but this is the essence of the earth. A healthy spritz of lemon juice brightens the fairly long finish. Needs food. 91pts
2009 Terredora di Paolo Fiano di Avellino $18
Very fruit-driven on the nose with chalky lemon notes over grapefruit rind and peach fruit. On entry, this is bright and juicy with lovely fruit that recalls the chalky citrus of the nose in a medium-bodied package with juicy acidity and good length. There’s a nice purity and brightness to the fruit here but this is a touch simple. Still lip-smackingly good. 89pts