Which Wine with Fish?

There used to be a simple rule about always only having a white wine with fish. Here are my thoughts on combining the fruits of the ocean with the fruits of the vine.

This is a sensible rule because many of the best fish dishes are uncomplicated and could be theoretically spoiled by a complex red wine.

When cooking a salmon for example it is rare that a Champagne, Chardonnay or Pinot Noir would clash with the flavour, so these are safe bets. In fact a champagne is always going to work. We particularly love bubbles with gravadlax or other strongly flavoured salmon dishes. If buying fizz, look for tiny bubbles all rising in the glass at a uniform rate.

However, the rules about only red wine with fish dishes can be broken. This is particularly true with meatier fishes such as sturgeon, tuna, and swordfish. You could try reds such as merlot, pinot noir or a beaujolais with these fishes.

Alternatively another good tip is that matching a Riesling wine with tuna fish can often work wonders. We tried it recently with tuna steaks served with a buttery caper sauce and found delicious additional notes in the Riesling that are usually ignored by our palettes.

With grilled white fish a Chardonnay or Voigner can be a real treat.

If you like French wines then a Sancerre or Pouilly Fumee (both Sauvignon Blancs) go amazingly well with buttery white fish dishes.

When we eat a bouillabaisse (a fantastic fish stew from the Provence region of France) we opt for the local French wine (cassis) because there is enough strength in the wine to enhance the palette without clashing against the fish. Also popular with this dish is the Rose produced in southern Provence.

Gruner Veltliner is a fantastic Austrian grape that has once again appeared on our wine merchant's shelves. This is a particularly 'food friendly' wine, with pear aromas that work beautifully with any fish dish with mushrooms in it. If you like the flavour of this wine look out for South American Torrontes grape based wines. The Agentinian growers have done amazing things with this grape in recent years.

Finally if you are eating English style fish and chips, where the white fish is cooked in a crispy golden batter you might avoid wine and go for beer instead. Forget lager which is tasteless and go for a strong british bitter instead. If you have tried bitter and found it not to your taste why not push the boat out and eat your next portion for fish and chips with an icy glass of Champagne or Cava. You might get some odd looks from the waiter, but trust me, they go together perfectly.