The first of the TNC challenge nights! What to drink with fish? Some nailed it, some were slightly wide of the mark, and some didn’t even manage to locate any fish!
Fiorebella Rosso del Veneto Appassimento, Italy. Starting strong out of the blocks and throwing caution to the wine and food pairing gods, he decided he particularly fancied drinking this rich Italian red, and he was going to eat monkfish. Were each delicious? Absolutely! Did they work together as a pairing? Not so much. Does he care? Not a jot! If you love both and its what you fancy than frankly everything else goes out the window! The wine is like a baby Amarone in style, made using 60% dried grapes. He has had the wine a couple of times and has always been impressed. Fareham Wine Cellar £11.25
Taking the pairing side of things slightly more seriously, next up we have homemade fishcakes with the Plessis-Duval Muscadet Sevre et Maine sur lie 2018, Loire. This is always a wonderful all round fish wine, light, fresh and acidic with a salty, slightly earthy note and a lovely creamy texture from the lees aging. Spot on with the fishcakes (which looked delicious). The recipe is here for those keen to give it a whirl. https://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/fish-cakes-with-caper-parsley-sauce-106157 The wine is from a Swiss grocery store and is sub 10 euro.
Brane-Cantenac Blanc 2019, Bordeaux. This is the first ever release of a white wine from this famous chateau and despite being made from just 3 year old vines it is unctuous, and exotic on the nose, glossy as a Labrador and scented with white flowers and citrus. Very different on the palate with a rich balanced texture and a super long finish. It would stand up to foods as rich as cassoulet and will age well. This wine will go from strength to strength as the vines continue to age. Made from 72% Sauvignon Blanc and 28% Semillon and aged in oak. Bordeaux whites are in a really exciting phase at the moment and for top age worthy whites are still proving good value. This has not yet hit the market but is likely to be around the £35 from Lymited. Not sure we got as far as the fish!
Domaine Lyrarakis Plakoura Mandilari 2017, Crete. An unplanned continuation of the Greek adventure, but having had a beautiful Greek red from Lyrarakis last week introduced to her by Philglas & Swiggot, she was putting together a Wine Society order and stumbled across the same producer but a different grape and was curious. The wine is made from the indigenous Mandilari grape and some of the grapes are dried adding concentration and mouthfeel. It is deep in colour, rich and full, plummy though not over extracted and showing spiced oak notes. Another great wine from Greece. Not sure about fish, but it would have been a dream with lamb! The Wine Society £12.95
Gaia Monograph Assyrtiko 2019, Santorini, Greece. The teachers pet prize is definitely awarded here! with a zoom back ground of their summer holiday in Santorini taken at the winery they had us all dreaming of chilled Assyrtiko enjoyed at a beach side taverna. They bought the wine back with them and it is tasting just as good as it did on the island. It is recommended to have with fish, indeed even has a fish on the label, and was paired with fish pie. Notes of lemon and lime with that trade mark lovely volcanic minerality. A great pairing! Cellar door approx. 20 euro
Another fish fail, but as their daughter had offered to make homemade pasta they get a pass on that one! They were served stuffed pasta with sage, pork and parmesan and started with the Vicentini Agostino Soave Terrelunghe 2019, Veneto which was lovely, crisp, fruity and citrus fresh. Philglass & Swiggot £11.50. This would have been a gorgeous on a summers evening, but as it is wet and wild outside they cracked open the Paolo Petrilli Motta del Lupo 2018 Cacc’e mmitte di Lucera DOC, Italy. A slightly green pongy nose soon blew off to reveal berries and chocolate. Really elegant if a little short in the palate. Great with the sage butter but needs food to shine. Philglass & Swiggot £12.50
Another somewhat bold pairing for a monkfish dinner. The Laura Catena Luca Laborde Double Select Syrah 2018, Argentina. Despite being known as the land of Malbec, do not hesitate to try other red varieties from this country as they are astonishingly good, particularly Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. This Syrah is full, rich yet eminently drinkable, with plums, mulberries and a lovely finish. Really enjoying it. Although it is likely to over dominate the monkfish, he is confident he will have finished the bottle before getting to dinner so will find something white then! Not yet available in the UK, approx. £20
Grunhaus Maximin Riesling 2019, Germany. If you shout fish, I shout Riesling! This much misunderstood grape is finding a lot of love in this household. This is just an entry wine from one of the great estates but is mega tasty and super drinkable. Off dry, it is vibrant and citrusy with orange zest, green apple and a lovely hint of bitterness on the finish giving it the sensation of dryness. At 11.5% abv it is almost guilt free drinking, and the beautiful pure fruit and fresh acidity work wonders with simple fish dishes. This is an epic vintage for German wine and for the quality, unbeatable on price. Howard Ripley £9.00
Frescobaldi Castello Pomino Bianco 2019, Tuscany. A blend of 90% Chardonnay and 10% Pinot Bianco from hillside vineyards, this is a beautiful wine that is balanced and fresh with citrus, ripe, juicy pear and a lovely rich texture. £5 more than last week’s wines, but more than twice as good. It would be a great pairing with fish, but amid many excuses it turns out it is is being paired with Chinese chicken instead! Corking Wines £16
This is a very special wine, made as a tiny experimental batch by her Italian winemaker boyfriend and certainly not commercially available, this 2020 skin contact Muscat (or Zibibbo as it is known in Italy) from Campania was sent over as a Valentine’s surprise. Made in concrete eggs with no sulphur added and fermented using wild yeast, it is an incredibly complex yet moreish wine with orange blossom and spice, ginger, dried apricot and a saline finish. Fresh and bone dry it is really delicious and what an incredible colour. Superb with homemade fish pie! We weren't jealous at all!
Rafael Palacios Louro Godello 2019, Valdeorras, Spain. Another recommendation that has totally hit the spot, it is utterly delicious, but what would you expect coming from the maestro that is Rafael Palacios. Full bodied with stone fruit and citrus and a lovely minerality. Served with monkfish and crispy pancetta it was a delicious pairing. Golborne Road wine shop and deli £20
Wanting to think outside the classic ‘fish and white wine’ pairing, I also opted for monkfish which I wrapped in bacon and served with harissa aubergine. The spicy, smoky notes in the food would, I hoped, work a dream with a lighter style fruity red with light tannins. My experiment paid off and I found a great match; the lovely Agramont Garnacha 2019, Navarra, Spain. Lots of delicious velvety wild strawberries, blackberries and cherry, the tannins are super soft, the acidity lovely and fresh and the ripe sweetness of the fruit was the perfect foil to the smoky spice, while light enough not to drown out the flavour of the monkfish. Bang on if I do say so myself. And even better, this little beauty is just £7.99 from Lidl.