Pairing wine and various foods has been the topic of many of our previous posts here on this blog. However, when it comes to pairing wine and seafood in particular, I don’t think I have covered that topic. A recent visit to Meylers Fish Merchants here in Wexford, prompted me to correct that.
Now, I think we all know the general rule of thumb is to pair seafood with white wine only. Whilst it’s true that white wine will often pair well with seafood, it’s far from the whole story. Not that I want to debunk that common held wisdom, but I do want to add some considerations.
In this post I want to suggest that when pairing a wine with seafood, you consider the type of fish, any spices added in its cooking and even how it has been cooked.
I know that you may be thinking, ‘oh no – not more wine pairing rules’, but that’s not my intention. I just want to offer a few simple guidelines that you might follow, which will improve your dining experience.
Fish Attributes and Flavour Characteristics.
Thanks to my friend Linda in Meylers Fish Company, I can relate to you, a little of why some fish taste different from others.
What makes a fish different to other types of meat is that their muscles are layered (facilitating swimming) rather than bundled (connected by tissue). The composition of the muscles in a fish, its diet and its habitat will influence its texture and taste.
There are two types of fish – white fish and oily fish.
- Oily fish have a firm texture compared to white fish and a distinctive taste. They usually have darker flesh and a strong flavour.
- White fish have a more delicate texture than oily fish. They can be flakey or firm and the flavour profile can also vary depending on the type of fish.
Flat white fish: Dover sole, lemon sole, plaice, megrim, witch, turbot, brill, rays
Round white fish: bream, cod, gurnard, haddock, hake, John Dory, ling, monkfish, whiting
White fish with slightly oily flesh: grey mullet, red mullet, bass
Oily fish: mackerel, sardine, herring, salmon, sea trout
Cephalopods: squid, octopus, cuttles
Molluscs: clams, razor clams, cockles, mussels, oysters
Shellfish: scallops, crab, lobster
There may be several different fish and shellfish within a dish, plus vegetables, fruit, etc. to consider when you are choosing a wine. As a guideline, try and match the flavour of your wine to the strongest flavour of the dish, but consider how it will pair with the mildest flavour too.
Three Guidelines for Pairing Wine and Seafood
- The acidity in wine cuts through the oil or fat and the fishy taste of the seafood.
- Lighter flavour profiles = light bodied white wine, stronger flavour profile = medium bodied white or red with soft tannins.
- Strong tannins in wine can overpower the delicate flavours of the fish (rosé or reds with good acidity can handle strong flavoured fish also).
Wine and fish are, of course, both a personal taste but it should be said that good pairing is driven by the chemistry of their individual characteristics. In the next section I will suggest some natural pairings for you to try.
By the way, recently, I posted a quick crab claws recipe on our social media channels so I’ll re-post it here as an image.
The point I want to get across is that there are some natural pairings for wine and fish and that they can be enjoyed whether it is cooked on the BBQ, at the beach or at home.
20 Natural Pairings of Wine and Seafood
- SEA BASS & PINOT GRIS
- TURBOT & CHARDONNAY
- SALMON & PINOT NOIR
- SMOKED SALMON & SPARKLING ROSÉ
- OYSTERS & CHAMPAGNE
- MONKFISH & SOAVE
- SKATE & DRY RIESLING
- LOBSTER & CHABLIS
- HALIBUT & CHARDONNAY
- TUNA STEAK & ROSÉ
- EEL & WHITE BURGUNDY
- CREAMED TUNA & BARBERA
- SCALLOPS & SAUVIGNON BLANC
- HERRING & NEBBIOLO
- TROUT & ALBARIÑO
- PAELLA & VERDEJO
- FRIED CALAMARI or SQUID & CHAMPAGNE
- GRILLED SHRIMP & RIESLING
- HADDOCK & SAUVIGNON BLANC
- GRILLED SARDINES & PINOT NOIR/GAMAY
What is the Best Wine for Cooking Fish?
All I can say is that the brand of wine is not near as important as the type, to match what you are cooking. Each type of wine will give what you cook a different flavour. I outlined some of the more popular pairings above but in general, when cooking: use sweeter types for shell fish, moderate dry for cephalopods ( squid , shrimp , octopus , etc. ), dry for fatty fish, and not so dry for fleshy fish .
Green Acres Wine and Fresh Turbot.
Before I finish, I want to share my experience of a recent Turbot dish that I cooked myself. I share the ‘instructions’ below but I want to mention the wine first.
I paired the turbot dish with an Elgin Vintners Chardonnay (€26 in Green Acres) which was fleshy, elegant, and full bodied – similar to a decent Chassagne Montrachet or a well-developed Meursault. It matched perfectly with Meylers’ fresh turbot.
Turbot Dish – My Style
- Rinse the fish, dry with kitchen towel
- Season, just some salt and pepper
- Place on tinfoil on a baking tray, or in a cast iron dis,
- Add some spring onions chopped, dill or fennel or parsley, (whatever is handy)
- Butter, white wine, olive oil, (as much as you think – practice makes perfect)
- Slice of lemon on top
- Cover the fish by wrapping over the tinfoil, or cover the dish with foil
- Into the oven at 180 for about 15 minutes, or under a heated grill
- And away you go
- Use the juice as your sauce and mop up the juice with a bit of fresh soda bread
(This can be put on a barbecue either, just use extra foil so it doesn’t leak)
If there are a few people eating with you (at a distance, of course) and you can’t decide what wine to open, or everyone at the table is eating something different, open a bottle of nice Champagne—it’s one of the most food-friendly of wines.
By the way, I should add here that, Green Acres and Meylers are open for business for a few hours every day during the current restrictions.
We are both operating an order and collect/deliver service, so if you want us to drop your wine order down to Meylers for collection, or vice versa – we will be delighted to assist.
As always – enjoy the wine and friends you’re with (in moderation).
#StaySafeSaveLives – Talk Soon – James.