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Oct 1, 2008
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Wine With Bronzini

by Paul Lukacs and Marguerite Thomas       

Bronzini, a fish that has long been popular on European menus, is finally becoming known in the US.  A Mediterranean sea bass with shiny, silvery skin, it resembles a medium size trout and weighs, on average, two to three pounds.  As with trout, bronzini is at its most appealing when prepared simply -- either oven-roasted, sautéed, or grilled, and garnished with little more than a wedge of lemon.  The fish is traditionally served whole, with its head on.  The meat is white, semi-firm, and sweetly flavored. 

Since we've been ordering grilled bronzini in some of our favorite restaurants for years, we were thrilled a few weeks ago when our own Baltimore farmers' market introduced a fish purveyor named Salt River Lobster which not only specializes in excellent shellfish but also has a few Bronzini to sell each week.   So we brought a couple of fish home, brushed them with olive oil, and grilled them.   (Confession: due to our lack of experience -- okay maybe our lack of sophistication - we did struggle a bit with removing the head and filleting the fish, but the results were very tasty if not as beautifully presented on the plate as we'd hoped). 

We had a pretty good idea which wines would best suit the bronzini.  Not surprisingly, delicacy was the operative word.  A couple of the wines we lined up were too lushly textured to harmonize with the fish, notably a Chilean Viognier and an Albariño from Galicia; in addition, the too-obvious fruit flavors in both wines fought with the seafood's subtlety.   On the other hand, wines that lacked character failed to ignite gustatory sparks.  An inexpensive Riesling, for example, and a run-of-the-mill Pinot Grigio were passable, but hardly anything to enthuse over.  The wines that really excited us had just a hint of fruit, a dose of minerality, and most importantly a good measure of zingy acidity to bring out the refined, understated flavors of the fish, much the same way a squeeze of lemon does.

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.   



Approx. Price



Attems, Venezia-Giulia (Italy) Pinot Grigio 2007

(Imported by Folio Wine Company)






Weightier and more flavorful than many northern Italian Pinot Grigios, this wine nonetheless offers the sort of zesty vivacity that has made this varietal so popular.  Its bright citrus flavors meshed very well with the fish.




Doga Delle Clavule, Maremma Toscana (Italy) Vermentino 2007

(Imported by Vineyard Brands)






From vineyards near the Tuscan coast, this Vermentino offered aromas and flavors reminiscent of lemons and salty nuts, combined with racy acidity and a firm structure.  It almost tasted of the sea.




Domaine Faiveley, Montagny Burgundy (France) 2006

(Imported by Wilson Daniels Ltd.)





Youthful and marked by vibrant acidity, this white Burgundy does not have the lush texture that characterizes many Côte Chalonnaise whites.  That might knock it down a point or two when tasted on its own, but it's precisely what enabled it to pair so well with this delicate dish. 




Domaine Denis Gaudry, Pouilly Fumé Loire Valley (France) 2007

(Imported by Vineyard Brands)





One of our favorite all-time food and wine matches was a filet of sole accompanied by a crisp Sancerre that we enjoyed in a simple seafood restaurant in La Rochelle, France, a few years ago.  This Pouilly Fumé with our bronzini echoed that match, as the bright citrus fruit and faint herbal echoes in the wine meshed seamlessly with the fish.





Ponzi Vineyards, Willamette Valley (Oregon) Pinot Gris 2007







The richest wine we are recommending with this delicate seafood dish, this Pinot Gris delighted us with its crisp apple and pear fruit character.  Though full on the palate, it never overwhelmed the bronzini.