Pairing wine with fish like a pro: is red a no-go?

Pairing wine with fish like a pro: is red a no-go?

February 20, 2018

With fishing being the Kiwi national sport, and the internet giving infinite delicious recipes at the click of a button, it’s definitely worth knowing which wines do which types of fish and seafood justice at the dinner table.

Beyond pairing a white-fleshed fish with a bottle of Sav Blanc (by the way: generally a great idea), most of us are confused, and feel out of our depths (fishy pun most certainly intended). Don’t worry though - as with many things in the mysterious world of vino, it just so happens there are a few easy-to-follow rules when it comes to matching great drops with your catch of the day!

Golden rule: like with like

A golden rule that most experts recommend is pairing a light fish with a fine-bodied wine like a Sauvignon Blanc, which is not too heavy, and a meaty fish with a full-bodied wine such as a light red or oaky chardonnay.

Traditionally, with putting a wine on the table with fish, most people go the safe route and assume the choices become quite limited to a crisp, white wine. In reality, the rules are more relaxed than ever, so almost anything goes. Lighter red wines can often pair very well with meaty or oily fish like salmon or tuna… but even freshwater fish can match beautifully with a bottle of Pinot Noir, so you’re not as limited as you might think. White wine wise, you also can’t go wrong with a nice Pinot Gris with an oily fish... its acidity and fruity flavours make for great pairing with tuna and salmon, as well.

But isn’t red wine best with red meat?

Red wines get a bad wrap when it comes to seafood mainly because of the high tannin content, which can make the bites of fish taste a little metallic. The heavier flavours of a deep red wine will also easily overpower the more delicate, light flavours of fresh fish and seafood, so it is a good general rule of thumb when it comes to lighter proteins together with heavier red wine flavours. A well-selected, lighter red though can not only compliment the fish, but also bring out and enhance its different flavours that a white wine would not be able to.  

When it comes to something particularly light, such as scallops or grilled snapper, white wine is still often the best choice. This is particularly so when you want to retain those fresh ocean flavours, such as when you serve a simple, unsauced cooked fish straight off the barbecue or out of the pan.

Don’t forget the bubbles!

We recently included a bottle of Bosca Five Stars Prosecco in our February Bottle Service subscription box - a lovely Italian sparkling wine which is also surprisingly versatile. Many people think fun sparkling wines such as Prosecco are really best drunk at celebrations, with starters or with desserts  - not at all bad ideas from our point of view. Another option, however, to think about is pairing a glass of bubbles with a salty fish dish - a great complement to the crispy, citrusy sweetness of the Prosecco. You wouldn’t probably automatically think it, but your standard fish and chips is a great match for this sparkling wine as well! The acidity and bubbles of this wine both cut through and enhance the beer battered coating. Humble, with a touch of class. Why not!

Shellfish definitely calls to have light and sparkling wines like Prosecco and Champagne as well. Plus, if you order the lobster in a restaurant, you’re celebrating anyway, aren’t you! If your dish is on the spicier side, consider a wine with some sweetness like a Moscato: lower in alcohol, sweet and a tiny bit fizzy, it nicely tempers the spiciness.

If however you can’t decide, the safest bet really is a nice bottle of Champagne - it's one of the most food-friendly wines - and a crowd pleaser on its own, to boot!

Don’t forget to sign up to our newsletter if you want full cheat sheets and more information on all things wine - without all the pomp and fluff.

Cheers to that!




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