They say there is nothing like travel to create a special relationship with wine. I recall eating in an astounding tiny Basque seafood restaurant in a small Spanish town of Hondarribia (right across from France) called Hermanad de Pescadores. We ended up in this simple restaurant as my wife had walked by it and said the smells coming from the kitchen reminded her of her grandmother’s cooking in Samos Greece. My goodness the halibut was the best I have ever had in a simple but flavourful broth. It was next to us that we met T a diamond merchant and I his aristocratic French wife. We ended up eating with them the next evening over another astounding seafood meal at Hermandad. I had written a review of the restaurant which was exemplary and they had it translated and placed outside their restaurant. We keep in touch with T and I and a few years just before COVID slammed France we ate in a sushi restaurant in Lyon with T and I. We had a Côtes de Gascogne with our sushi and T hit the nail on the head with the wine selection. So recently I spotted a Côtes de Gascogne and nabbed it fuelled by memories of the Lyon sushi.
The wine is a Domaine de Ménard Cuvée Marine 2020. It is a blend of 60% Colombard, 20% Sauvignon Blanc and 20% Gros Manseng with an unusually low 11% alcohol content.
Colombard was not exactly a grape with distinction in California where it was a mainstay of cheap jug wine, but in the Côtes de Gascogne it is particularly effective in contributing peach and nectarine fruit and citrus lemon perfume to wines.
How does it fare in this Ménard wine? Fabulously! It is almost as if it has restored my faith in white wine with so much acidic and tasteless gallons of it floating around. On the nose apricot, peach with lesser notes of tangerine and mango. On the palate it fails to daunt with hyperactive acidity instead a gorgeous tropical composition. It is somewhat like a Gewurztraminer with a muzzle on its snout. At 8 grams of residual sugar per litre it is not floundering in a bone-dry casket.
It certainly can handle seafood but it should have a succulent and low-keyed broth like at Hermanos de Pescadores. I am not sure that will be so easy considering the Halibut was caught in the night and prepared hours later. Perhaps we can hope in Canada for some simply prepared Fogo Island Handline Caught Cod from Newfoundland.
Putting aside fish this will pair nicely with Thai and Vietnamese food with lots of noodles and broth.
The wine sips beautifully and pairs very well with the food suggested. Drink by the end of 2023. Not meant for ageing. It’s flying high right now!
(Domaine de Ménard Cuvée Marine 2020, IGP des Côtes de Gascogne, Menard, Gondrin, France, $14.95, Liquor Control Board of Ontario # 310201, 750 mL, 11%, RKS Wine Rating 94/100).