This month’s white wine pairing consists of pan seared sea bass and a Côtes du Roussillon Blanc.
2016 M. Chapoutier Les Vignes de Bila-Haut Blanc Côtes-du-Roussillon
$15. Fifteen bucks (or less) gets you wine from famed Rhône winemaker, Michel Chapoutier. You know, THE Chapoutier, king of the Rhône?1 The one with the uncompromising, high, exacting standards? But instead of the Rhone, he’s created a quality wine from the under the radar Roussillon region of France. Per Chapoutier, Roussillon has the potential to be as great as Bordeaux, Burgundy, or the Rhône. Talk about a great #BudgetMinded wine.
Roussillon is located in southern France near the Mediterranean. Once disregarded due to its large production of second tier wines, in recent years the Roussillon region has come into its own. New and experienced winemakers alike have embraced the region’s potential. With the warm, sunny Mediterranean climate, ripe, fruit-forward wines are the norm. And due to the ease of production in the area generally, many of the wines come at quite a bargain.
This particular white wine is a blend of Grenache Blanc, Grenache Gris, Vermentino, and Macabeo (aka Macabeu aka Viura). And it’s such a masterful blend as each grape lends something quite distinctive to the wine with the Grenache Blanc adding citrus notes, the Grenache Gris adding some roundness, Vermentino providing a savory note, and Macabeo adding some salinity. I’ve been drinking the Bila-Haut red and white wines for years.2The grapes are hand harvested and the resulting wine is fresh, crisp, and aromatic. Lime, peach, and salty flavors are at the forefront of this very enjoyable wine. I love the combination of fresh fruit over a layer of salinity and minerality. While you could certainly hang out and drink this on on a warm, sunny day, the wine’s acidity makes it a wonderful food wine. Which is exactly what Chapoutier envisioned.
Pan Seared Sea Bass with Risotto, Spinach, & Cherry Tomatoes
When I tasted the wine, its salinity made me think of seafood. So sea bass it was – though you could use just about any white fish. The fish was seasoned with salt and pepper and seared in a skillet and was finished off with a basic white wine butter sauce. The meal was completed with a mushroom risotto with fresh spinach and tomatoes folded in once it was done cooking. This is the recipe that served as my inspiration.
As the wine was medium bodied, I didn’t worry about it being overtaken by the sauce. I loved the acid and saltiness of the wine with the acid and saltiness of the sauce. For foods that exhibit high levels of acid and salt, an equally acidic wine can bring everything into balance. A white wine with a low acid level would have seemed flabby with a sauce such as this. And the wine’s acidity cut nicely through the creamy risotto. Acid and fat are always a winning combination when it comes to wine and food pairing.
I certainly foresee more Roussillon wines in my future. And at these prices, why not?! Bila-Haut wines are available on wine lists and at stores in metropolitan markets throughout the U.S.
Cheers until next time y’all.
- Maison M. Chapoutier is a family-owned winery located in Tain-l’Hermitage in the northern Rhone. The family’s winemaking history dates back to 1808 and while they are world famous for their northern and southern Rhone wines, they also produce wines in the Languedoc-Roussillon, Alsace, Portugal, and Australia.
- This most recent bottle was provided to me as a sample, but all thoughts are my own. Did I mention that I’ve been drinking this stuff for years?!