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Aug 4, 2009
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Wine With . . . Shrimp Ceviche

by Paul Lukacs and Marguerite Thomas

A generous serving of ceviche may not be quite the equivalent of a beach vacation, but the dish is as wonderfully refreshing as a cooling ocean breeze.  Its citrus-spiked brininess evokes the seashore more than any other food except, perhaps, fresh oysters, and its affinity for chilled white wine  makes it even more a deliciously invigorating warm-weather treat. 

We had ceviche a couple of weeks ago in Oregon’s Cascade Mountains, on a deck overlooking the Metolius River.  Six of us, vacationing together (as we do for about a week every summer at our friends Margianne and Arthur’s cabin), scarcely gave any attention to any other tasty hors d’oeuvre spread before us until we had scooped up every last morsel of the savory ceviche.  

Ceviche, of course, is seafood marinated in citrus juice.  Despite what is commonly said about it, the citric acid does not so much cook the fish as change the structure of its protein molecules, rendering it tender as well as opaque in color.  Indigenous to Latin America (Peru is generally credited as its birthplace), ceviche is now enjoyed pretty much everywhere, with the starring ingredients ranging from shrimp, scallops, or squid to halibut or sea bass.  When ceviche is based on shellfish, it is often pre-cooked before being macerated in lemon or lime juice, while finfish is typically used in its raw state, cut into small pieces before marinating.  Needless to say, freshness is imperative either way.

Ceviche may be enjoyed, as we did in Oregon, scooped up with sturdy corn chips.   It makes an elegant first course, especially if heaped into martini glasses.  It also can be a delicious tostada topping or taco filling.  When we tested Margianne’s recipe back home, we served it as a main course.  With nothing more than good bread to go with it--and, of course, the right wine—this ceviche seems a splendid indulgence, though in fact it’s exceedingly nutritious, relatively modest in calories, and very simple to make.

Shrimp and Avocado Ceviche

1 pound shrimp

3 cloves garlic, finely minced or passed through a garlic press

1 small spicy pepper such as jalapeño or habanero (or to taste), very finely minced

Juice of 3 limes

1 cup diced tomatoes

1 avocado, diced

½ cup minced cilantro

Salt and pepper to taste

Peel and clean the shrimp.  Steam or poach it for 2 minutes, then transfer to a colander and rinse in cool water.  Pat dry with paper towels and transfer to a bowl.  Stir in the garlic and lime juice and let sit for about 10 minutes.  Stir in the remaining ingredients and let marinate, in the refrigerator, for up to six hours.



Approx. Price



Graham Beck, Coastal Region (South Africa) Chenin Blanc “Gamekeeper’s Reserve” 2008

(Imported by Graham Beck Wines LLC)





We tried twelve different wines with this dish, all white save for one dry rosé.  As we suspected, the rosé seemed a bit too heavy with such a fresh-tasting dish, as did any white in which the taste and feel of oak proved overt.  We’ve found in the past that most shellfish has an aversion to oaky flavors, something that certainly was true with this ceviche. 

The wines that paired best fell into two broad categories.  First came those whose primary flavors echoed the tangy citrus in the dish.  Of the wines we’re recommending, the two Sauvignon Blancs and the Albariño matched that profile well.  At the same time, another set of slightly weightier wines with a note of sweetness in their finish worked equally well.  Instead of confirming an impression first conveyed by the dish, they offered a counterpoint – and a delicious one at that.  The Graham Beck Chenin Blanc and Scharfenberger bubbly both exemplified that style.  With both categories, though, freshness was a necessity.  This isn’t a dish to pair with that special, venerable bottle of old white Burgundy you’ve been saving.  Instead, opt for something youthful and lively.

This Chenin Blanc tasted of pears and peaches.  Its succulent character added depth to the ceviche without in any sense detracting from the dish’s vitality.




Martin Codax, Rías Baixas (Spain) Albariño 2008

(Imported by Martin Codax USA)





Bright and lively, this youthful Albariño exemplified the characteristics that make the varietal so attractive with seafood – fresh, citrus-tinged flavors, zesty acidity, and an impression of salinity in the finish.  




Quivira, Dry Creek Valley (California) Sauvignon Blanc “Fig Tree Vineyard” 2008







Fuller in body than the Veramonte rendition, this California Sauvignon nonetheless displayed true varietal character, with the hint of herbaceousness in its bouquet accenting the cilantro and jalapeño in the ceviche.




Scharffenberger, Anderson Valley (California) Brut NV





Like many good California sparkling wines, this Brut actually tastes a tad off-dry, its ripe fruit flavor giving it a sweet richness on the palate.  While that characteristic may not be as appealing as true Champagne dryness when it is sipped as an aperitif, it is precisely what made the wine work so well with this dish.




Veramonte, Casablanca Valley (Chile) Sauvignon Blanc “Reserve” 2008

(Imported by Huneeus Vintners LLC)







Very bright and zesty, with a zing of acidity that jolts the senses, this wine more than any other we tried meshed with the flavors of the dish.  It seemed almost part of the ceviche rather than something new or separate.