Saturday, September 15, 2012

MRE Menu 21: Lemon Pepper Tuna

While this MRE may bear no resemblance to actual seafood, for the purposes of wine pairing, let’s treat it like it does.  When eating of the sea, it’s best to also drink that which reminds us of the sea, and few white grapes will kindle that memory better than albariño.   A good place to find just such an albariño is Rías Baixas in the southwest corner of Galicia, which itself is in the northwest tip of Spain, adjacent to the border with Portugal.  Albariño in Rías Baixas is planted in loose, sandy soils at low altitudes, adjacent to rivers and the ocean.  A recent increase in quality production at a small group of wineries, as evidenced by wines that show best after 2-3 years of bottle age, has led to an increase in demand, and therefore a substantial increase in plantings.  Choose your producer carefully.

A red wine with naturally high tannins would be a bit much for the tuna, despite its overcooked density and dryness.  A fruity, medium-bodied wine such as one made from barbera would be a better fit.  Although not uncommon throughout much of northern Italy, the Piemonte is where it achieves its most ideal expression, particularly in the area of Monferrato and Asti.  Perhaps it would do just as well or better toward Alba to the west, but the prime vineyard spots there around Barolo and Barbaresco are devoted to nebbiolo.  While disagreement exists with the aforementioned nebbiolo and many other Italian varietals on the merits of aging in small new French oak barrels, few would argue that barbera doesn’t benefit from at least some barrique treatment.  For the tuna, choose a version where the cherry and plum fruit stand front and center, while the oak elements remain in the background.

Complementary Pairing:  Rías Baixas, Galicia, Spain
Try:  Pazo de Señorans Selección de Añada
[]  Located in the Val do Salnés, which is the largest sub-region of Rías Baixas, this house has been at the vanguard of producing quality albariño and encouraging others in the region to do the same.  The Selección is aged in stainless steel tanks on its lees for almost three years, followed by an additional year in the bottle before release.  The nose and palate may variably offer up apple, peach, citrus, olives, and fennel.  There will always be a streak of minerality and a full, textured mouthfeel, with substantial acidity on the finish.

Contrasting Pairing:  Barbera d’Asti, Piemonte, Italy
Try:  Araldica Barbera d’Asti ‘Ceppi Storici’
[]  Araldica Vini Piemontesi is something of a cooperative of cooperatives, having brought together three cantine sociali and now comprising over 200 individual members.  They are proof positive that even large operations can produce quality wines, particularly at the top end of their range, which has the choice of the best fruit from all the vineyards.  The name of this wine is an uncommon way to say ‘old vines,’ with the translation being closer to ‘historic.’  Only a minority is aged in barrique, so the fruit and acidity will remain as the dominant elements.

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