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Dec 9, 2008
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Wine With . . . Prosciutto-Wrapped Arctic Char

by Paul Lukacs and Marguerite Thomas

Our friend Jeanne, one of a foursome of houseguests visiting us from the west coast last week, brought along a recipe that she had clipped from the New York Times for roasted fish wrapped in prosciutto.  We thought that the combination of salty, meaty ham and delicately flavored fish might make this a tasty but tricky dish for wine pairing.  Since our guests were up for the challenge, we enlisted their help in trying to find some good "Wine With" partners for it.

While we sautéed some potatoes and assembled a salad, Jeanne wrapped fresh fish filets in thin slices of prosciutto that she had spread with a pesto-like sauce.  The dish filled the house with mouth-watering aromas as we opened up an assortment of white and red wines, as well as both a still and a sparkling rosé. Then we gathered around the dining room table with wine glasses, notebooks and plates full of food, and began sampling the wines with the meal.

When it came time to compare notes once all fourteen wines had been tasted, it turned out that each of the six of us had independently selected a blended white from the Rhône Valley as our favorite wine with the dish.  But following this somewhat surprising consensus of opinion, there were some disagreements among us, proving that finding the perfect wine to go with this delicious dish was (as we'd anticipated) not entirely a slam dunk.  For example, five of the six of us loved the sparkling rosé with it, while the sixth person was convinced that the wine was overwhelmed by the fish.  Five tasters thought a Merlot complemented the gutsier aspects of the dish (the forthright prosciutto, the spicy herb mixture) while one hold-out felt strongly that it overpowered the delicacy of the Arctic Char.  But aside from these two hotly contested wines, there was fairly easy accord on most of the others -- those that were too light in both body and flavor (an Albariño from Spain, for example) were a little disappointing with the dish, while exceedingly fleshy and or oaky selections rode roughshod over it.  At the end of the experiment we agreed that in some ways this actually proved to be a versatile dish. Either white or red, not to mention still or sparkling, can partner well with it, so long as the wine has ripe fruit flavor.

In our friend Jeanne's interpretation of the original recipe, she used Arctic Char, though skinless fillets of halibut, salmon, or any relatively mild flavored fish would also work well.  She cut the fish filets in six serving-size pieces, seasoned them with salt and pepper, and set them aside.  In a blender, she pureed together parsley, fresh basil, pine nuts and olive oil until the mixture was the consistency of a thin paste, which she spread over thin slices of prosciutto.  She placed each piece of Char in the center of a slice of prosciutto then wrapped the fish up in it.  In two large, oven-proof skillets, she sautéed the wrapped fish in a mixture of butter and olive oil for about a minute on each side.  Then she slid the pans into a hot oven and roasted them, uncovered, for about 10 minutes, or until the fish was just cooked through.

If you have any food and wine pairings that you think are outstanding, or if you've encountered any glaring mismatches, we'd love to hear from you. Drop us a line at winewith@winereviewonline.com.

 

Selection

Approx. Price

Comments

 

Cadaretta, Columbia Valley (Washington) Merlot 2006

 

 

 

$35

 

A deliciously seductive Washington State Merlot, this wine divided our group when tasted with the fish.  Everyone loved it on its own, but one taster thought it a bit too powerful for this particular dish.  The majority, however, thought that its plum-like fruit married well with both the salty ham and the herb-enhanced char.

 

 

 

The Four Graces, Dundee Hills (Oregon) Pinot Blanc 2007

 

 

 

 $18

 

Full-flavored and almost fleshy in texture, this white offered the perfect weight and feel to complement this dish, and its forward fruit flavors served as an attractive counter to the slightly crusty ham.  Do note, though, that it tastes slightly sweet.  While we appreciated that with this particular pairing, others who insist on full dryness in white wine might not.

 

 

 

Mumm Napa, Napa Valley (California) Brut Rosé NV

 

$24

 

The strawberry character of this sparkler offered a fruity, fun counter to the prosciutto and char, with the bubbles only adding to the enjoyment.  Mumm Napa used to label this wine as "Blanc de Noirs."  The name has changed, but the character and personality in the bottle has not.

 

 

 

Perrin & Fils, Côtes du Rhône Reserve Perrin Blanc 2007

(Imported by Vineyard Brands)

 

 

 $11

 

The consensus favorite match with this dish, this also happened to be the least expensive of the fourteen wines we tried.  A blend of Grenache Blanc (50%), Bourboulenc (20%), Marsanne (10%), Roussanne (10%), and Viognier (10%), it offered an aroma and flavors reminiscent of peaches and pears, with a nutty undertone that only added to its charm.  There was nary a drop left in the bottle when we left the table.

 

 

 

Castello di Corbara, Umbria (Italy) "Podere Il Caio" Rosso IGT 2006

(Imported by Vineyard Brands)

 

 

$13

 

A blend of Sangiovese, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon, this fairly light-bodied but fruit-filled red offered plenty of flavor to complement the dish without (like most other reds we tried) ever threatening to overwhelm it.  As with all the wines we're recommending, its chief appeal came from its vivid fruit--something necessary given the combination of savory fish and salty ham.