If you’ve got into the habit of eating more fish over the summer you may well have been accompanying it with the local vino but just as with any other ingredient the perfect match depends on the type of fish and the way you cook it.
There’s a world of difference between delicate shellfish such as fresh crab on the one hand and a powerfully-flavoured Provencal-style fish soup or stew on the other. You can even drink red wine with fish whatever anyone tells you! Don’t believe me? Try a glass of chilled pinot noir next time you order seared tuna.
Here’s my simple 10 point guide to fish and wine pairing:
1. If you’ve got super-fresh shellfish that needs little if anything in the way of adornment, keep the wine simple too. A dry unoaked white such as a Picpoul de Pinet from the Languedoc, Muscadet from the Loire, Spanish Albarino or other crisp whites from coastal regions - will hit the spot perfectly.
2. If you’re cooking with butter or cream, Chardonnay is your friend. Simply grilled or pan-fried flat fish like plaice, brill and sole are fantastic with Chablis, especially premier cru Chablis. For richer sauces or a creamily sauced fish pie go for something a little richer like a Rully, Saint-Aubin or other subtly oaked chardonnay. Scallops and lobster love chardonnay too.
3. Fish dishes with olive oil on the other hand such as seafood salads or grilled seabass with sauce vièrge are better with sharper, zestier whites like a Sauvignon Blanc or a Sardinian Vermentino. Crisp, pale, dry rosés such as those from Provence also work well.
4. Anything fried tastes great with bubbles so next time you order a takeaway fish and chips crack open a bottle of Champagne - or Cava, depending on the occasion. (Maybe goujons for champagne and cava for the chippy ….)
5. If you’re searing or barbecuing fish, especially meaty fish like salmon, swordfish or tuna you’ll find it can take a light red. As well as pinot think Beaujolais or other Gamays, Cabernet Franc from the Loire (such as Saumur-Champigny and Chinon) and Spain’s new up-and-coming red, Mencia from Bierzo. Don’t be afraid to chill them slightly - 20-30 minutes in the fridge should do it.
6. In general oily fish such as mackerel and sardines work best with crisp whites but if they’re barbecued even they can take a red. The sardine-loving Portuguese often drink sparkling red Vinho Verde!