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Guide to pairing wine with fish

Francisca JaraFrancisca Jara

Francisca Jara

Smoked, raw, pan-fried with butter…there are as many preparations as pairings available when choosing wines. Fish are not only enjoyed with white wines.

Traditionally, fish have been associated with white wines. But thanks to its great versatility, the options are much broader and fun. It all depends on the product and how it is prepared. White, rosé, sparkling and even red wines can be great companions.

For fish, the key is to pay attention to its texture and flavour. A simple and effective classification is to think if the fish are: lean and delicate (such as lemon sole or plaice); of medium texture and flavour (such as trout, sea bass or reineta); meaty (such as swordfish, tuna, salmon, monkfish) or strong flavour (such as mackerel, anchovies or sardines). With this classification it would be very easy to find the pairing by seeking harmony between the two, but we rarely serve fish and seafood alone or prepared in the simplest way. How many of us have dared to add a spoonful of butter, a handful of capers, herbs and so many other things? For this reason, preparation is essential. Raw, grilled, baked or fried are techniques that will also add texture and flavour to the final result. Another important tip: leave out tannic wines and wines aged in new oak.

Let’s get to the point. If we focus only on the protein, those lean and delicate fish that crumble easily, need equally delicate and light wines to harmonize, whose flavour and volume does not exceed that of the fish such as a Pinot Grillo; one with a medium texture and flavour like sea bass would work very well with a wine like Marques de Casa Concha Chardonnay, while a meaty one like tuna could easily be paired with a light-bodied red wine like Marques de Casa Concha Pinot Noir.

But if we go to the preparations, the pairings can vary much more, and in them you can look for harmony as contrast. If we prepare a lean and light fish like lemon sole pan-fried, a glass of sparkling wine would be exceptional to cleanse the palate. While, if we made it grilled, with a few drops of lemon, a lot of butter and capers, a wood-aged Chardonnay like Marques de Casa Concha Chardonnay would work perfectly to complement the aromas and flavours of the butter, but also to refresh the palate with its acidity.

For fish with a medium body and texture such as trout, a rosé wine such as Marques de Casa Concha Rosé Cinsault could complement the flavour of this fish with its mineral, fresh and delicate notes. But the same wine could also pair by contrast with smoked trout (or salmon or mackerel). Mildly smoked fish, with a slightly sweet flavour, firm and oily texture, pair very well with very crisp rosé or white wines. If you prefer reds, a light red wine served slightly chilled like Marques de Casa Concha Pinot Noir could also complement smokiness with its soft tannins.

For meaty and “pink” fish such as salmon, tuna, but also swordfish and monkfish, these work better with rosé and light red wines than white, although it will all depend on the preparation. For recipes with tomato, where there is a higher acidity point for more fatty fish, a sparkling wine works very well but a full-bodied white wine like a Chardonnay are exquisite alternatives.

And finally, for fish with a strong flavour such as anchovies or sardines, they need especially crispy wines to contrast, such as a Sauvignon Blanc, Albarino or Txacoli. This same style of wine complements raw fish very well in preparations such as ceviche.


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