Fish is a delightful meal which can be both delicate and strong. Wine pairs with fish just as pleasantly as with meat, but just which wine will depend on the fish. Both white and red wine lovers will be able to find the perfect combination to complement both your favourite fish and your favourite wine.
Lean, Delicate Fish
If you have a zesty, refreshing bottle of Vinho Verde from Portugal or a Vermentino from Italy in your wine cellar, you know they will pair well with lean fish. There are several lean, flaky fishes that complement white wines splendidly, balancing the delicate fish flavour to perfection.
A Sauvignon Blanc from the Loire Valley in France is perfect accompanied with a lovely cooked tilapia, pollock, or branzino.
Tilapias are very mild flavoured fish, easily absorbing any flavour you want to infuse them with: lemon, dill, or blackened Cajun spices. Pollock is similar to tilapia; it’s essentially a blank slate of flavour that you can build upon and infuse with your favourite spices. Branzino is a white, delicate-flavoured fish with little bones, and when beautifully prepared will accompany a white wine perfectly.
Sea bass goes well with White Bordeaux from France or Chilean Chardonnay. Sole pairs nicely with French Chablis, as this is a rather delicate fish.
Medium Textured Fish
For fish which is still flaky, but firmer and thicker, white wine with high aromatics and aged in oak will be the perfect choice. A bottle of White Rioja or a Moschofilero from Greece will pair nicely with trout, monkfish, or hake.
Trout has a stronger flavour than a tilapia, but it suits lemon and butter very well. Monkfish has a meaty texture close to a prawn, and when well prepared it will melt in your mouth. Hake has a mild, almost sweet taste and a medium texture, and will be a delicious meal baked, fried, or sautéed.
Broiled cod will pair up nicely with a Pinot Blanc from California or white Bordeaux from France. With dried cod, or Bacalhau, you can serve Pinot Gris from Oregon, a Sauvignon Blanc from California or even one of the many wines that come from the Alto Douro region in Portugal, such as Moscatel.
Sea trout can take Viognier from California, but freshwater trout is a more delicate fish. An unoaked Chardonnay from California or Oregon, a Pinot Grigio from Italy, or Albariño from Spain are exceptional choices.
Strongly Flavoured Fish
Some fish have a strong, salty taste from the sea, and they require wines like a dry Rosé or cremant de Limoux. Anchovies or herring can be paired with Champagne or Nebbiolo. Sardines will be a lovely meal with a Spanish Albariño or a dry Orvieto from Italy. If grilled, they can also be paired with Sauvignon Blanc from California or Loire, France, or a Spanish Manzanilla sherry.
A rich, red wine full of flavour, like Dry Lambrusco or white Cotes du Rhone, will balance any meal with firm, meaty fish. Salmon, mahi mahi, tuna, and swordfish have a steak-like texture.
Mahi mahi doesn’t have a strong fish flavour but tuna, for example, has an extreme fishy taste, easily becoming dry if overcooked. Salmon and swordfish can be considered ‘heavier’ fish for their firm texture and fat content.
Salmon goes splendidly with red wine, like Oregon Pinot Noir. However, if you prefer a white wine, you can pair it with a subtle, oaky Chardonnay from California. It’s an elegant taste, suitable for a palate appreciative of white wines.
The beauty of a well-stocked wine cellar is that you will always be able to find the perfect wine for any meal, one which will complement and pair perfectly with anything from the most delicate tasting fish to the strongest.
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Read our next pairing installments:
Pairing Wine with Cheese