Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Zany Pairing: Sea Bass and Bandol

Mourvedre thrives as the mainstay grape of Provence's oldest vine-growing region, and grows in pebbly limestone, with pockets of sandy marls and sandstone. The terraced vineyards mostly face south, creating an amphitheater lined by man-made walls of river stone called restanques. 
Mourvedre produces densely pigmented wines with high levels of tannin and acidity. Being a late-harvesting grape and Spanish native, Mourvedre demands lots of sunshine and warmth to produce mature fruit. The grape's aromatic profile reveals herbs, ripe plum and strawberry fruit with a hint of meaty undertones in its youth, but turns to scents of leather and truffle after aging.

Bandol supplies Mourvedre with the perfect climatic arena due to its long, hot growing season and low fertility of the soils. My choice of red Bandol with Saturday night's dinner represents only 25% of the appellation's production, while roses comprise 70% of total production.

My brother, Bob--a chef at Willow Restaurant, Arlington, Va--purchased fresh sea bass from Washington D.C.'s fishermen wharf and prepared accompaniments of carrot vinaigrette, broccolini, and creamy lentils with mirepoix, shallots and thyme. Sea bass pairs well with Bandol because of its mild flavor, firm texture and high fat content. Lentils add a rich, nutty flavor to the dish which pairs well with the acidity presented by the Mourvedre. The combinations worked beautifully, the sensations striking, euphoria levels high.

2007 Chateau de Pibarnon Bandol rests amongst the La Cadiere hills west of Toulon with 25 year old vineyards positioned in a naturally southward facing amphitheatre. The winemaker blends approximately 10% Grenache and 90% Mourvedre, resulting in an aromatic wine with substantial tannins. On the palette, though, the tannins swell with softness--no abrasive, chewy or overly dry sensations. Herbaceous nose, pretty red fruits, bright acidity. As for terroir, limestone soils contribute to the acidity of the wine and produce lean, polished tannins. Pairs perfectly with the aromatic lentils and carrot vinaigrette, ultimately providing the fish entree with more substance, texture, and richness.