Pairing Wine with Seafood
The flavors and textures of seafood can enthrall and mesmerize; they can be some of the most unique and sensuous experiences you can bring to the table. There is a delicacy and vibrancy to a piece of simply prepared tuna or salmon that is perfect in its focus and charm. On the other hand, nothing appeals more to the hedonist in us all more than lobster tail dipped in butter.
Whatever the tone of your meal, there is no question that the properly selected wine can transform it into a memorable one. Some of the world’s greatest wine-producing countries, particularly Portugal, Spain, and Italy, have great seafood cuisine traditions. These countries’ wines owe a lot to their maritime climates, and it is natural that the regional pairings are an easy choice. Our modern-day easy access to a globe-spanning selection of wine and food choices gives us a plethora of potential pairings to choose from. Follow these easy guidelines and your meal is sure to shine.
- “White wine with fish” is true in many cases. While moderately tannic red wines work nicely with red meat, cutting through the fat and exposing more flavor of the meat, the same red wine with a less fatty fish can easily overwhelm the dish. The tannin in the red may mask the seafood’s natural flavors.
- The Bigger Fish – Salmon and Tuna – The higher fat content and rich flavor of salmon and tuna make them ideal for pairing with lighter red wines. Pinot Noir is a classic choice. Bolder whites such as Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc and Semillon have the weight to match nicely.
- Bivalves – Mussels, Clam, Oyster, Scallops – Much of your pairing decision here will depend on preparation. Simple recipes, with butter and herb sauces, will call for a full flavored white such as Chenin Blanc or a richly styled domestic Sauvignon Blanc. If the shellfish have a rich tomato sauce, look for a Sangiovese or Rioja to balance the flavor. Oysters sharper briney flavors make them a beautiful pairing for Champagne and Loire Sauvingon Blanc.
- Whitefish – Cod, Seabass – This type of fish contains less oil and delivers more delicate flavor. Dry Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Grigio are good examples of pairing whites for this fish.
- Crustaceans – Shrimp, Prawns, Lobster – Keep your eye on the preparation here when making your wine selection. Straightforward recipes will require a simple white wines such as unoaked Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc or Spain’s Albarino. The rich, succulent flavors in Lobster will shine with a white Burgundy, Chablis, Blanc de Blanc Champagne, or - for a decadent experience- a rich, oaky California Chardonnay.
As with any other pairing opportunity, always remember: What’s most important is that you like the wine! No matter how much every expert might tell you that oaky Chardonnay goes with lobster, if you don’t like it, don’t drink it! Hopefully these guidelines can help you to make your next seafood feast a truly momentous one.
Recipes & Wine Pairings