Pairing wine and fish continues to be woefully misunderstood. The old notion of only “white wines with fish” continues to sow confusion. It’s important to remember that not all fish is created equal, so consider a few tips to finding the perfect match.
As with all wine pairings, start with the “weight” of the food. We aren’t referring to pounds and ounces but to the richness, texture and fat. Consider the many types of seafood and the array of textures and weights. You can compare the hearty weight of salmon, tuna or sea bass to lighter filets of flounder or tilapia, or the rich taste of lobster versus the delicacy of an oyster or scallop.
The seafood can also change weight depending on the sauces or toppings accompanying the dish. Pairing a bare oyster with champagne is ideal, but the same wine will not compete with the rich and powerful Oysters Rockefeller.
The cooking method can also influence the choice of wine. Sauces that use a cream base will need a wine with high acidity to compete. Rose, Rieslings and sauvignon blanc all have the acidic backbone to withstand the richness of the cream. Fried seafood needs a wine that cuts through the oil and batter: think chardonnay, sauvignon blanc or semillon.
Crab: Riesling or chardonnay
- 2009 Jacobs Creek Reserve Riesling, Australia (about $15 retail)
Salmon: Pinot noir or pinot gris
- 2008 Gnarly Head Pinot Noir, California (about $12 retail)
Striped Bass: Merlot or chardonnay
- 2008 Yalumba Y Series Merlot, Australia (about $13 retail)
Lobster: Chardonnay or pinot noir
- 2008 Spann Vineyards Chardonnay/Viognier, California (about $20 retail)
Mahi Mahi: Pinot noir or semillon
- 2008 Peter Lehmann Semillon, Australia (about $13 retail)
Oysters: Champagne or unoaked chardonnay
- 2008 Chandon Unoaked Chardonnay, California (about $20 retail)
Mussels: Riesling or albarino
- 2008 Martin Codax Albarino, Spain (about $18 retail)