Hugely popular mackerel is in the category of oily fish like tuna, sardines and herring. It is affordable and much appreciated for its good taste and nutritional qualities. Many different recipes can be used to showcase mackerel. It is very often served as rillettes, in a white wine marinade or grilled on the barbecue. However, even marinated or cooked, it retains its strong, characteristic taste. Depending on how it is prepared, the white wine will have to be incisive and sharp, or mineral-dominated, so as to stand up to the fatty flesh of the mackerel.
Dynamic tension and saline for mackerel rillettes
Prepared as rillettes, mackerel has a soft and moist texture that calls out for a vibrant nervy wine with saline notes, from schist terroir … which leads me to the Atlantic …
Here I suggest the gorgeous cuvée Les Clous made by the Domaine Saint-Nicolas, in Vendée. This is a sharp wine with an amazing blend of grapes that includes a Chenin base and the addition of Chardonnay and Groslot (aka Grolleau), that Thierry Michon alone knows how to put together.
A south of France solution is also possible. I recommend a wine from Languedoc, the cuvée Villa Blanche from Calmel and Joseph. The Calmel and Joseph firm was founded in 1995 and produces an excellent Picpoul de Pinet. It is aromatic, with evolving notes of citrus, dill and fennel. On the palate, amazing mineral freshness that is rare for the region where wines tend to remain very varietal. This mineral forwardness is ideal for contrasting with the soft texture of the mackerel rillettes.
Mackerel prepared in a traditional recipe, marinated with white wine, is served with a rich marinade full of flavours and textures that includes thin slivers of crunchy carrot, coriander, preserved lemon, ginger and thyme. Here you need a sharp and incisive white that can stand up to the oily fish. The wine also needs to be delicately aromatic so as to highlight the many herbs and spices in the marinade. I would like to suggest a local wine, a Côtes Catalanes vin de pays made by Le Soula wine estate, the white Le Soula. This southern wine has all the crystallin purity of a Loire white. The altitude and the granite terroir where the vines grow give it exceptional mineral tension. In choosing the originality of blending indigenous grapes Gérard Standley and Gérard Gauby have made a wine that superbly expresses the Roussillon terroir. The blend that has given rise to Le Soula white includes Macabeu, Grenache blanc and Tourbat, Sauvignon and Chardonnay and a tiny bit of Vermentino.
A more northern white is also a good choice. Taste a Sancerre that grew on flinty soils. A flinty terroir beautifully controls the varietal expression of Sauvignon blanc. Finely aromatic and discretely mineral with notes of nettle, menthol and flint. Among the great cuvées from flint terroir in the Sancerre appellation, I recommend the Réserve Silex by Daniel Crochet, Les Herses from Alphonse Mellot and Les Romains from Domaine Vacheron.
La Revue du Vin de France juin 2020