Wine and Fish Pairing: What Comes First, Food or Wine?
When it comes to food and wine pairing, there’s a constant debate over what to consider first, wine or food. In many ways, the answer is subjective and individual. Perhaps it all comes down to what’s in your wine cooler. Personally, I would like to start with the wine. So let’s say, if I’m contemplating a refreshing, crisp, high acidity wine, I will cook a dish that goes with it. Whereas, if my desired wine is a full-bodied red with layers of oak notes, then I’ll get a good juicy steak seasoned and ready for grilling.
Fish in Garlic-Lemon Butter and Wine
Fish and lemon-butter are classic food partners. Most of white fish dishes are like blank canvas waiting for bright, exciting flavors to make them delicious and interesting.
The role of lemon juice or wine is essential to brighten the bland fish. For example, adding garlic, lemon zest and juice, white wine, and capers to the melted butter, will transform the liquid into a savory, rich and tangy sauce that gives a fantastic boost to the fish.
So, in this case I would immediately choose Sauvignon Blanc. Simply because the wine goes in harmony with the flavors of garlic, lemon, capers, and herbs. It’s just perfect!
Foolproof Wine Choice: Sauvignon Blanc
Someone could argue that you can’t go wrong with Sauvignon Blanc. It’s probably one of the most popular food-friendly wines. Sauvignon Blanc is not only a foolproof choice with white fish, but a great one too. What makes Sauvignon Blanc go so well with fish, is its refreshing, crisp style, and high acidity. Those unmistakable delightful aromas of freshly cut grass, lime, grapefruit, and elderberry, make the ideal partner for delicate food flavors, especially fish. Therefore, when the recipe calls for herbal, citrussy flavors, make sure you grab that Sauvignon Blanc!
Same grape, Different Regions
Now that we established the case for Sauvignon Blanc. The next debate is which one. Sauvignon Blanc is planted all over the wine world. From France and Italy, to California, New Zealand, and Australia. But that doesn’t mean they taste the same regardless of their place. Keep in mind, that the warmer the wine region, the higher the alcohol, and the less pronounced aromas and less vibrant. Whereas cooler regions such as the Loire Valley in France, and Marlborough, New Zealand will produce aromatic, zesty and lively Sauvignon Blanc wines.
What Wines to Avoid with Fish
There is no ultimate right or wrong when it comes to wine and food pairing. Some might say avoid red wine with white fish, but in the end, it all depends on how the fish is flavored. Strong flavors require strong flavorful wines, and delicate flavors go best with delicate aromatic wines.
Some of the best white varietal wines that go with fish, are Riesling, Chablis (unoaked Chardonnay), Chenin Blanc, Albariño, Pinot Grigio, Muscadet…etc. Feel free to ask me if you are not sure what to pair.
If you prefer red wines, then look for light-bodied reds with no oak aging. Pinot Noir would be a good compromise if the fish is seasoned with strong flavors like mushroom or beans and vegetables. My only advice is to save your oaky Cabernet Sauvignon for your fatty steak, or braised short ribs, because that’s another perfect pairing 😉