Serious Grape: Fish and Seafood Wine Pairings



The March issue of Food Arts magazine arrived in my mailbox last week. It's a publication intended "for the trade," so I always find it especially interesting to see what chefs (or in this case, sommeliers) are saying to their peers. This month, an article called "Catches & Matches" addresses the rules for pairing wine and seafood.

Or should I say, rule. Singular.

According to the article, only one rule applies: when it comes to wine pairing, it isn't the fish that matters, it's the preparation of the fish. Here are a few other highlights from the article.

  • Whimsical guideline: "White wine with white seafood, pink wine with pink seafood, and red wine with red seafood."
  • David LeFeve, executive chef at Water Grill in Los Angeles says, "Look at the wines produced in great seafood areas—like the roses of Marseille, the wines of Portugal, Spain, Southern Italy. That's what goes with seafood."
  • Rajat Parr, wine director for the Michael Mina restaurant group, created a wine list for the Las Vegas-based American Fish around four categories of cooking: salt-baked, wood-grilled and -smoked, cast-iron griddled, and poached in ocean water. The hardest part: pairing with the fish cooked in ocean water. He leans away from oaked/buttery wines, and toward lighter, crisper wines with more mineral and citrus, "which equalizes the minerality the ocean water brings to the fish."
  • Parr also analyzes fish for three elements: with or without skin; oily or not oily; and intense or mild fish flavor. "Skin in particular changes the wine match," he says. "If there's skin, the wine has to be intense." He always opts for red wine with skin-on fish: "White wine will fade if there's skin."

Do you have any rules for wine pairings?