A year ago I wandered into a favorite wine shop in Bordeaux and discovered Vermentino again. It’s a grape that grows in many places. France, Italy, Australia, California and Oregon are prime areas. I’ve tasted some from each place but the one that stands out is the Vermentino from the Corsican Arena family.
A Family Business in Patrimonio
Antoine Arena has a small winery in the Patrimonio region of Corsica. He’s a pioneer who worked for years to establish respect for this region and its wine. Since the 2014 vintage, he divided the estate among his two sons, Antoine-Marie and Jean-Baptiste, who will carry the family name into the future developing their own styles, while maintaining family bonds. They are a smaller producer currently making about 12 different wines with an annual production of 5,500 cases. You can find wines from the estate bottled by these three men.
Mark and I tasted a few red and white Antoine Arena wines, each were stellar and we highly recommend seeking them out. You can read about his Grotte Di Sole, Patrimonio Rouge 100% Nielluccio (Sangiovese) here.
US sources for Arena wines include Kermit Lynch Wine Merchants in Berkeley, California and Sherry-Lehmann in New York.
Grapes come from the 30-year old Carco vineyard on an eastern facing slope of limestone, chalk and clay. This wine is organic.
Vinification: Natural yeast, long fermentation, low doses of sulfur, cement cuve, no oak; aged 6 months on lees in stainless tanks
Profile: Aromas of white flowers, stone fruits, an herbal quality (thyme), mild grapefruit and lime.
The palate is rich, with a marked mineral, lime/saline quality and a long, rich yet refreshing finish. For more about sur lie aging click here.
The Pairing: Seafood and Spice
The wine shined with Cabillaud (Cod), one of the most popular white fish found in Bordeaux Poissonnerie (fish markets). It’s generally thicker than the US version with a mild flavor that screams for sauce, spice, and toppings. My version was baked and served over a mixture of chickpeas, carrots, and red bell peppers cooked with a splash of coconut milk, cumin, and garlic (stew-like). A sautéed onion, preserved lemon, and cherry tomato salsa was draped over the top then finished with garlic flowers I found at a favorite herb market. And just down the street the Armenian baker makes thin, layered flat bread that’s quite tasty to use for scooping and eating the dish.
Now this was a memorable pairing! Although the wine had a mineral brightness, because it spent time on lees before bottling, the mouth feel was full and rich. The dish had the same: rich earthy characteristics from the beans, coconut milk and spice, and bright notes from the salsa: similar elements in each played nicely with each other. The unfortunate part about this dish is I don’t have a recipe- I often don’t follow one having an idea in my head and running with it. Jane from Always Ravenous is waiting for me to share a recipe for my Thai Vegetable Lentil Curry bowl paired with Verdicchio, you can read about that here.
O-Sud was a favorite wine store because it showcased small, harder to find producers from the south of France, Corsica, Italy and Spain. Unfortunately they just closed their doors. I’ll certainly miss O-Sud but thank them for turning me onto Antoine Arena wines. We have yet to taste wine from his sons Antoine-Marie and Jean-Baptiste but if they’re anything like their father’s wine, our palates are in for a treat!