You often hear that there are pairing requirements for food and wines- red wine can only be paired with red meat, chicken and fish must go with white wine, you’ve heard them all.
When in doubt, it’s a good guideline if you’re not sure, however, it’s not always the case. There are beautiful wines that could be the perfect accompaniment for your dinner but you may not realize it simply because the color in the glass doesn’t follow the rule.
In the case of the fish, you want to pay more attention to the taste, flavor, and quality of the fish in order to determine the type of wine with which you should drink it. Is it fatty or buttery, does it have a more intense fishy flavor, is it heavy or light? It’s also important to note the preparation. Are you going to fry it into tacos, roast it whole, or sear it to have rare? These are all essential factors when pairing your wine to your fish. It’s a delicate protein and should be handled with care.
Salmon: Lighter Reds
Salmon is a big fish. It’s meaty, hearty, and slightly oily, so it deserves something that complements it without being overwhelming. Enter in a zesty red like a Pinot Noir or Gamay which has enough acid to cut the fat but encourages the smoky, bold fruit flavors that make a grilled or baked salmon really shine.
Fried Fish: Sparkling
Anything fried will require something very bright to really make an impression on the fatty goodness of the oil. Think Prosecco or Cava, or perhaps even a sparkling Rosé to give you that light bubbly taste, especially if this is a fish taco we’re talking about which will probably have spicy elements as well. Shy away from something like a Moscato d’Asti as the overwhelming sweetness will make the fried breading feel even heavier.
Lean Fish (Tilapia, Branzino, Sea Bass): Crisp Whites
When folks say white wine goes with white fish, this is what they’re referring to. These are flaky, very light proteins that take on wonderful flavor. You’ll most commonly see them prepared with a lot of citrus and herbs which are the best friends to a crisp white like an Albarino or a Muscadet. Crisp and slightly sweet are great pairings for any of these fish whether they’re baked, roasted, or poached.
Again, these are guidelines but if you’re in a pinch, look for even-tempered white wines like a Sauvignon Blanc, a white Zinfandel, or a Chardonnay to pair with your fish. Take into consideration the description that you can read online or even ask someone who works at the shop you’re in for some notes on the flavor profile to help gather information for the next time you have a fishy dinner party.
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