So often when it comes to matching wines with food we follow the old custom of pairing reds with meats and whites with fish. However, the question begs for answer – Is this an unbreakable truth or is it simply an old-fashioned statement which has by now begun to show its weathered edges? Well, it seems that the rule is actually based less on tradition and more so on universal common sense.
When it comes to fish, the vast array of varieties with all of their unique origins, textures and flavors make the choice of one wine over another a bit more complex than simply relying on the idea that any white will do simply because the dish being served has fish as its main ingredient. Moreover, considering how the fish is to be cooked can also play a role in preferring one wine over another. In general, fish dishes which have fewer ingredients and are cooked for shorter periods of time pair well with elegant, crisp and delicate wines. Fuller bodied wines with greater structure, on the other hand, make for better pairings with more intricate fish dishes and those cooked for longer periods of time.
Delicate white wines bring out the softer flavors of non-fatty fish and those cooked simply, for example fish that is grilled, boiled or steamed. One example of this lighter pairing is fish appetizers or grilled fish served with a wine such as Falanghina or Breganze Bianco Doc. Another possibility is Roero Arneis paired with fish baked in foil. When looking for the ideal wine for shell fish, the best option is usually a more refined aromatic wine such as a Franciacorta Millesimato, a Chablis, an Alghero Torbato or a Trento Spumante.
Fried fish dishes require a different type of pairing, one that is a touch more decisive. The added fat from frying creates another component to the food, and it is this fat which calls for a wine that has a higher alcohol content and better yet one that is also sparkling, two factors which help to diminish the oiliness of the fish. In this case, an excellent choice might be a Spumante Metodo Classico.
Instead when it comes to fish with a stronger flavor, fish like turbot and bonito, bolder rosé and white wines, such as Greco di Tufo, are a good choice. Red wines make a great pairing with fish soups, Tuscan cacciucco or fish stews like Italian guazetto. For these, the best reds to choose are those that are young, light and present lower tannins. Several young red wines produced in Italy which pair well with these kinds of dishes are Colli del Trasimeno Rosso, Dolcetto Alba or Chianti delle Colline Pisane.
So the next time you plan on eating fish and find yourself perusing the isles of your local wine store or scanning the wine list at your favorite restaurant keep these few simple rules in mind.