Pairing wine with seafood can be decidedly tricky. Every type of fish and shellfish has a unique flavor and texture, which means that there’s no “one size fits all” wine pairing. And as it turns out, that old adage that you should stick to “red wine with meat, white wine with fish”? Not always true.
Thin flaky fish
What it is: Light, flaky-textured and mild-flavored white fish which typically come as very thin filets, such as tilapia, haddock, or sole.
Wine pairing: Refreshing white wines with a zesty kick are a great way to amp up the delicate flavor of these filets. Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay, and Sauvignon Blanc are all great picks; Champagne or sparkling wine also makes for a great pairing.
Medium flaky fish
What it is: Fish that is still quite flaky, but a thicker and firmer than the delicate varieties listed above. Examples include trout, catfish, cod, and Chilean sea bass.
Wine pairing: As the texture is medium as opposed to light, medium and heavier-bodied white wines match well. Chardonnay and rich California Sauvignon Blancs work well. For a contrast, you might opt for a Dry Riesling. If possible, seek out white wines aged in oak!
Firm, meaty fish
What it is: Firm fish with a meaty texture; some filets will even be referred to as “steaks”. Examples include salmon, mahi mahi, swordfish, and tuna.
Wine pairing: These fish are assertive in texture and flavor, so they need an assertive wine to match. Rich, buttery white wines like Chardonnay or Viognier work excellently; rosé wines are also a great pairing. These meaty fish can also work well with certain reds such as Pinot Noir.
What it is: Strongly favored fish that have a robust, ocean sea salt flavor.
Wine pairing: Choose an assertively flavored wine that can stand up to the salt but contrasts enough so you’re not left totally parched. Champagne, Dry Rosé, or Riesling are all good choices. Some red wines such as Pinot Noir may make a good pairing too, particularly if the fish in question is prepared with more earthy flavors.
What it is: The sector of seafood including mollusks and crustaceans, including crab, clams, oysters, shrimp, and scallops.
Wine pairing: Sweet and briny, shellfish pair well with white wines such as Chablis or Muscadet; for more richly flavored shellfish dishes, try a White Burgundy or Champagne/sparkling wine.
Remember, it’s ok to break the rules.
You’re in control of your dining experience. Choose your own adventure!
To enjoy the ultimate Food & Wine Pairing Experience, join us at the Delray Beach Wine & Seafood Fest March 9-10. Renowned wine experts will enhance your knowledge of winemaking and show you how to effectively match aromatics, flavors, and mouth feel components in food with those in wine.