Bluefin tuna is a highly-prized, delicious fish which should be consumed sparingly. In the not-so-distant past, intensive fishing upset natural balance. Today, it is a protected species. Just one more reason to treat it with extra special care and prepare the very best wine pairings when serving this rare and delicate fish.

Chef William Ledeuil has imagined an outstanding version of tuna belly marinated in a kumquat vinaigrette that contributes a tangy, exotic note. Other savors come from the sides, such as baby artichokes with their bitterness and mineral notes, thin strips of celery that contribute crunchiness and earthiness, slices of green apple that toy with acidity and fava beans which bring greenness…

And in the glass?

Given all the ingredients that go into this dish and the marinade, choose a wine able to stand up to the fatty texture of the fish, deal with the sweet-and-sour marinade and resist the celery and artichoke. One example I recommend is a demi-sec Vouvray from Philippe Foreau at Domaine du Clos Naudin. This vintage gives up notes of pink grapefruit and a hint of stored apples which go beautifully with the kumquat. Like all semi-dry wines, its slight tenderness melds with the sweet-and-sour aspect of the marinade. This Vouvray retains splendid acidic and mineral tension that underlies its sweetness and works beautifully with the artichoke and celery, enhancing the depth of their flavors.

Cabernet-sauvignon and soy

More common in summertime, a lovely dish of white tuna Catalan-style is full of the flavors of the south, with finely-chopped tomatoes, black olive, pickle and hot pepper. To go with this dish, I recommend the lovely Côtes-du-Roussillon Le Rosé from the estate Domaine Gardiès. An excellent rosé from direct pressing with no interference from any technical fermentation, made from Cinsault, Mourvèdre and Grenache noir in demi-muids where the wine stays for nine months. A character-filled rosé that is both powerful and spicy with beautiful structure on the palate that makes it an easy-to-drink rosé wine.

With a tuna steak on the plancha

Summer is also the time to savor tuna steak cooked rare on the plancha, after being marinated in a teriyaki sauce that brings hints of wood and smoke. Here, I recommend a young Margaux, still fragrant with balsamic and wood aromas. The graphite, pencil-lead aspect of Cabernet-Sauvignon goes beautifully with the soy sauce in the teriyaki. Choose vintages where the tannins are good and ripe, to contrast with the fleshiness of the tuna. Try the outstanding Château Cantenac Brown and indulge in the magic of this pairing. In contact with the fleshy tuna, the tannins in this Margaux are admirably polished. Carafe this wine and serve at 16°C.

La Revue du vin de France février 2021