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by Fred McMillin
for December 21, 2000

 

The First Fish and Wine Dish


Prologue

"This wine is a wonderful complement to seafood, especially Italian..."

...Winemaker Etienne Cowper


The Rest of the Story

Etienne's first college degree was in cultural anthropology, so we expect he'll appreciate this Italian seafood recipe.

Western man's first fish-wine dish recipe was written 2,000 years ago by Roman gastronome Marcus Gabins Apicius (ah-pish-ih-us). Here it is (condensed).


Fish Stewed In Wine

Raw fish any kind you prefer, wash, cut and arrange in a sauce pan; add wine, vinegar, leeks, coriander, and cook. [Remove fish from pan when done.] Bring the residue in the sauce pan to a boiling point, allow it to reduce slowly to the right consistency, [strain], sprinkle with pepper and serve.

Etienne Paul Cowper

Etienne Paul Cowper made today's wine.

Pretty sophisticated. So is our...


Wine of the Day—From An Italian Grape

1999 Castelletto Cortese
Appellation—Temecula (90 miles southeast of Los Angeles, 25 miles from the cool Pacific)
The Grape—Cortese is the best white-wine grape of what is arguably Italy's best wine district, Piedmont. Unlike todays' recipe, it has existed only a few centuries. Castelletto produced the first Cortese in the U.S.A. in 1994. The very next year it won Best of Show at the large Pacific Rim International Wine Competition.
The Name of the Wine—In Piedmont, Italy, the best-known wine of Cortese is called GAVI, named after the village of that name. In our tastings of Gavi, it was a bit more stern and minerally. Cortese means "courteous" in Italian, and my tasters have found the Castelletto more courteous (smoother) than the Gavi.
Castelletto vs. Gavi— Etienne has found that in California it's vital to leave the Cortese grapes on the vine until they are fully mature. He has a hillside and a valley vineyard, and has each picked twice. He notes that at Gavi the early cold can force harvesting before the fruit has reached full maturity.
Food Affinities—We used catfish to make a modern version of Apicius' fish in wine. The Cortese has a pleasing shade of lemongrass that was good to the last bite.
Contact—Office of Denise Sutterfield, Director of Marketing, (909) 676-5047, FX (909) 694-5688
Production—631 cases
Price—$13


Postscript

We might be able to replicate a dish of Apicius, but not the ambience. For example, sometime during the meal the diners would be showered with rose petals!

 

About the Writer

Fred McMillin, a veteran wine writer, has taught wine history for 30 years on three continents. In 1995, the Academy of Wine Communications honored Fred with one of only 22 Certificates of Commendation awarded to American wine writers. For information about the wine courses he teaches every month at either San Francisco State University or San Francisco City College (Fort Mason Division), please fax him at (415) 567-4468.

 
 


 
 

This page created December 2000

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