Food and Wine Pairing: How to Choose Wine to Accompany Fish

Food and Wine Pairing: How to Choose Wine to Accompany Fish
Sep 20, 2011
E. Brandy

How to pair wine with fish dishes? Here’s some advices to make the best out of your fish dishes with choosing the good wine pairing. You will see that dry white wine is not always the only solution. Here is how to surprise and delight your guests with daring fish and wine associations.

The traditional view is that white wine is the perfect drink to accompany fish. But other marriages are possible. More than the nature of fish, it is often the method of preparation that must guide the final choice.

The white wine in its kingdom

It was customary to say “Fish without drink is poison”. French have apparently found the antidote. 9 times out of 10 it is the white wine, preferably dry, they set their sights on. With good reason. On fish, the “dry white wine” solution is the most natural and consensual.

There is no risk of error, even if the fish species and the recipe to which it is associated need some more refinement when choosing the good wine.

Freshwater fish or saltwater fish?

The first orientation is related to the origin of fish that you will serve.
Fish from a lake or a river? The flesh of a fine trout or a perch calls dry white wines, but round and elegant.
Examples: Saumur Blanc, Muscadet, a sleek burgundy like Meursault or a serious white.

Sea fish? The flesh being firmer, stronger taste of white wines are more powerful and balance the dish.
Example: The Burgundy vineyards of Meursault Puligny-Montrachet and Chablis through Auxey-Duresses, offers more choices than any other.

The cooking method

Another selection criterion, perhaps most important: the method used for cooking the fish. Three major groups can be thus formulated:

  • Fried or grilled fish marries a fresh white wine. Go to a Saint-Veran (Beaujolais), a St. Joseph (Côtes du Rhône), a Sylvaner (Alsace), a cote-de-Blaye (Bordeaux), or more expensive, a Crozes Hermitage (Côtes du Rhône), a Bandol (Provence) or a grand cru Riesling (Alsace).
  • braised or roasted fish marries a white wine, soft and round. The designationsof the Cotes du Rhone, Cotes du Roussillon, Touraine or a grand cruBordeaux meet, among others, fully on demand. The braised fish, it is sometimes easier to serve the wine already used in the formulation.
  • Smoked Fish marries a sauvignon. Quincy Bergerac, to Sancerre or Haut-Poitou, you, too, spoiled for choice.

White wine alternatives

Does this mean an alternative to white wine? The answer is yes! Within the universe of “white wine”, champagne, suits to most fishes. Sweet wines and semi-dry such as a Montlouis a great on a braised fish. The same goes for rose wines in many recipes.

But what about red wine?

The issue is controversial. For some people it’s a marriage against nature. For others, red wine is as legitimate as white. Serve red wine on red-fleshed fish (tuna, swordfish, mackerel…). Choose wines which tend to be mild, still young and full of freshness. Featured here, Pinot Noir and its many variations and the Burgundian wines from the Gamay grape and Merlot.

Do not forget the regional accompaniment

Is your fish dish inspired by a terroir recipe? So stay in line with the regional products and build on local names to accompany your fish.

The French Delice’s Tips

If you are not a big fan of white wine and you’re not totally convinced by marrying fish and red wine, so make the choice of rosé which turns out to be an excellent replacement for unfailingly accompany your fish dish.
The freshness and lightness of Collioure, a Côtes du Ventoux or a Var Rosé accommodate fish without any problems because of their sea flavors, with or without sauce. Another advantage for limited budgets, is that rosé wine is indeed a product generally available to most people.

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