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What Wines Go Well With Fish?

April 5, 2022

To understand wine pairing you need to understand the structure of the wine.  Every wine has different characteristics such as alcohol level, sweetness, tannin, and acidity.  Thinking of wine characteristics as “flavor” ingredients makes it easier to pair them with food.

We asked Thomas Hill Organics’ Chef Chris to guest blog and share his wine pairing expertise with us.

What Type of Wine to Pair with Fish – Red or White? 

When it comes to the type of wine that goes well with fish, it is usually recommended to stick with white. Red wines tend to pair better with red meats due to the more aggressive tannins found in them. However, if the dish uses a sauce, this thinking can change.

For example, bold red wine with aggressive tannins would go well with slow-cooked meats like braised short ribs.  Also, meat cooked with a sweet marinade, barbecued ribs for instance.  The sweetness of the sauce will enhance the acidity of the wine, and make it taste fresher.

To pair red wine with fish, look for something with lower tannins like a lively Grenache or a soft Pinot Noir. These lighter reds will also hold up to a sweet fresh tomato and fennel sauce.

What Type of Fish to Pair with White Wines 

Deciding upon what white wine to pair with fish there are four groups of textures and flavors that you want to keep in mind.  It is wise to think in terms of substance and weight when pairing. A delicate fish will go well with a lighter white wine and a heavy fish will pair better with a richer for full-bodied wine.

Examples:

  • Fish – mild-flavored, lean and/or flaky: sea bass, tilapia, sole
  • Wine – fresh and bright whites: Sauvignon Blanc, Vermentino, a crisp Grenache Blanc, Dry Rosé

Paso Wine Pairing – Baja fish tacos with CaliPaso Winery, Sauvignon Blanc

  • Fish – medium flavor and texture: trout, red snapper, halibut
  • Wine – medium body with robust aromatics: Albariño, Chenin Blanc, Viognier, vibrant Paso blend

Paso Wine Pairing – pan roasted lemon caper halibut with Grosso Kesser Vineyard, Albariño

  • Fish – firm and meaty steak-like: tuna swordfish, salmon
  • Wine – rich white with lots of flavor and weight: Roussanne, Marsanne, Malvasia Bianca, Chardonnay, Rhône blend

Paso Wine Pairing – grilled Mediterranean swordfish with Victor Hugo Winery, Chardonnay

  • Fish- strong with intense flavor: anchovies, sandiness, mackerel
  • Wine – dry with a light body, effervescent: Sparkling, Grenache Blanc, Vermentino, Dry Rosé

Paso Wine Pairing – wood-fired sausage and anchovy pizza with Thibido Winery, ‘First Date’ Grenache Blanc

How Do Sauces Affect the Wine Pairing? 

Whitefish in a butter sauce would go well with a full-bodied Chardonnay. And if the fish has a soy-based sauce, this would be a time to open the Grenache.

A mushroom sauce, on the other hand, makes me think of Pinot Noir.  Salmon also works well with Pinot Noir.  Ahi tuna is so weighty it can even pair with a bigger red like Tempranillo.

Paso Wine PairingThomas Hill Organics Crispy Skin Salmon with Croma Vera, Grenache

Sauce significantly influences the outcome for a pairing.  For instance, a grilled Sea Bass with a spicy, tomato sauce will hold up nicely to a red, like Syrah.

Wine Pairing With Other Seafood 

Other types of seafood like crab should be paired with a white wine that is not too oaky, but crisp with acidity.  Picture plump crab cakes paired with a fun and unique Picpoul Blanc.

Lobster, due to its richness, needs a weighty white wine.  It holds up nicely to a Roussanne.  When I think of oysters I always think of Sparkling.  However, there are many different kinds of oysters.  We are lucky enough to have an oyster farm not far from Paso. Their Pacific Gold Oyster is perfect with a Chenin Blanc.

The sweet flavor and firm texture of shrimp is a quick weeknight favorite to whip up at home. Pair a light and refreshing white, or what we like to call a porch pounder.

Paso Wine Pairing Abalone with Sweet Soy Glaze with Vino Vargas, Paso Doble Blanc de Blanc Sparkling Wine

Fish Recipes with Paso Wine Pairings

Some of the wineries have shared their favorite fish recipes along with the perfect Paso wine pairing.

BBQ Shrimp Tacos Paired – Mitchella Vineyard & Winery

Grilled Whitefish Mi-Cuit – McPrice Myers Wines

LPC’s Asparagus & Fresh Crab Soup – L’Aventure Winery

Moroccan Scallops – Penman Springs Vineyard

Fish with Citrus Butter Sauce – Niner Wine Estates

Lemon Pepper Grilled Salmon – Autry Cellars

Seafood Stew ala Dave – Vino Vargas

Salmon Tartar – JUSTIN Vineyards & Winery

Salmon with Strawberry Salsa – Harmony Cellars

Final Thoughts

When it comes to pairing fish with wine, or any wine pairing for that matter, there are definitely some rules and tips that will enhance the overall experience. But, this is Paso …. we like to break all the rules! The most important rule is whatever wine you are drinking or pairing, make sure it’s a Paso Wine.

And if fish doesn’t suit you, we have an excellent guide on pairing beef and meats as well.

*Use our handy dandy filter to sort by Paso Robles wine types