How to expertly pair wine with fish, or pretend to

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Wine pairing with fish can be slightly tricky, with many different types of fish and dishes – here’s how to make it or fake it

Even if you know nothing about wine and you’re trying to impress your date or colleagues and clients at a work event, all you need are a few tips to help you shine.

Here’s how to be an expert sommelier, or appear like one, at your next dinner with fish on the menu.

Wining with Dining

You may not know the flavour profiles and characteristics of the grapes within the wine but, according to WineMag.com, the secret to a successful pairing lies in picking a wine with the right weight and texture to that of the fish.

Andrew O’Brien, General Manager, SEA, Japan, Korea and India, Treasury Wine Estates, says, “What’s so wonderful about wine appreciation today is that we no longer have to adhere to the old convention of white wine with ‘white’ meat and red wine with ‘red’ meat.”

“The key to a successful pairing is to match the weight or texture of the wine to the fish,” O’Brien explains.

Wine to Match the Dish

“A simple rule of thumb: Light food with light wine, and heavy food with heavy wine,” says Vincent Fredon, Assistant Manager of Basilico at the Regent Singapore.

“For example, a scallop carpaccio complements well with a light white wine – it’s not too acidic or oak-flavoured so it doesn’t overpower the taste of the food, such as a Chardonnay which has a subtle almond flavour and roundedness that goes well with fish,” he says.

Does it Matter if it’s Red or White?

It’s also possible for red wines to be paired with fish if they have similar flavour profiles to white wine. Fish can appear quite acidic to taste, and most white wines have higher acidic content than red – meaning it could be slightly tart, which complements the dish.

White wines have a lower alcohol content than red wines, that does not overwhelm the delicate taste of the fish.

Fredon states that, normally, red wines will overpower the taste of the fish, but a light Pinot Noir is “not the best combination, but still enjoyable”.

O’Brien also recommends the crowd-pleasing Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris or Chenin Blanc. They tend to go very well with buttery sauces that often accompany fish but good red wine and seafood pairings are more suited to medium-bodied wines, such as a Merlot with tuna and a Shiraz with spicier seafood dishes.

Fake It Until You Make It – More Tips

Andrew O’Brien shares more:

  • Pair acidic foods with acidic wines. Chardonnay is a high-acid wine and goes great with tomatoes and citrus-based dishes.
  • Pair fruit-forward wines with sweet foods. Moscato is an excellent choice. Drier wines like Cabernet Sauvignon taste too acidic and/or bitter with sweet foods. Try Rosemount O Moscato.
  • Pair tannic wines with high-fat dishes. Strong cheeses and meats go well with Cabernet Sauvignon. The tannins break down proteins and make food taste better.
  • Pair lush or acidic wines with rich foods as they need a similarly rich wine to match, or a highly-acidic wine to cut through.
  • Start with white. A general rule of thumb is to drink white before red, and young before old. As the evening progresses you should drink bigger, bolder and darker wines and ultimately end with a dessert wine such as the Penfolds Grandfather Port or Muscat.

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