Cod sits on a bed of spinach with some courgettes from the garden and a few black olives. The whole lot goes in the oven in a paper parcel for 15 minutes – just enough that the fish is no longer transparent and retains its full flavour and texture. (Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t go wrong with fish; you can, by overcooking it, and that’s what happens 99% of the time. I feel a rant coming on.) Add some new potatoes and a herby dressing and you have a lovely, light summer meal. The weather doesn’t seem to want to enter into the spirit of things, but the wine will perhaps take our minds off that.
This is a classic match for Sauvignon Blanc and indeed I had an open bottle of Touraine Sauvignon, Domaine Guènault, 2009, which we had used as an aperitif and would establish a benchmark (my excuse). But I wanted to extend a little and try this dish with Muscadet, so I opened a bottle of The Wine Society’s Muscadet de Sèvre et Maine sur Lie, 2009 which I had bought a few months ago at £6.50. It is 12% alcohol and described on the label as having “… tangy, sappy flavours …” and being “… a classic partner for shellfish … also good with Asian cooking.” The cod is not shellfish nor the style Asian, but that doesn’t make it a risky match.
First, 2009 was a really good year for theLoireand for Muscadet so this is as good as it gets at this price – which is remarkably low in these days of distressed sterling. The wine is light and fruity, lighter even than the Domaine Guenault, but a million miles away from the ultra-concentrated New World Sauvignons that you might be tempted to compare it with. It is a lot less assertive, but nevertheless stands up well to food. Muscadet is, of course, not a Sauvignon at all, but a Melon de Bourgogne. However it is in the same taste spectrum of light, sharp but fruity wines. I actually like New World Sauvignons, but this was a more satisfying and subtle match. The ‘metallic’ spinach and the black olives were not brought into such sharp relief as they can be with a Sauvignon. A more concentrated wine might well have overbalanced the combination. We liked it a lot and it is very good value – remember that there is no longer anything out there below £4.99 that is worth drinking, so £6.50 is not a big premium, especially for a white wine.