Author: Alison Spiegel
The rule of thumb for pairing wine with food is red wine goes with meat and white wine with fish. This well-known statute is strictly observed the world over — but are there ever exceptions?
Like most culinary rules, if you understand why they exist you can usually break them, within reason. For example, you don’t have to truss a chicken before roasting it and scrambled eggs do not necessarily need to be cooked on low heat, the Amateur Gourmet says. Sometimes it’s fun to break the rules — and it can be a rewarding way to discover something new.
Drinking red wine with seafood instead of white is a perfect example. In some cases, red wine may actually be preferable to white, but you’d never find that out if you were a stickler for the rules.
Sommelier and restaurateur Paul Grieco of New York wine bar Terroir and restaurant Hearth believes the red-with-meat and white-with-fish rule is severely outdated. “The last time this expression held true, Nixon was still in the White House. Everything is up for grabs these days, except for the supremacy of Riesling,” he told Serious Eats.
So when is it okay to pair red wine with fish? It all comes down to texture and flavor.
Wine Enthusiast magazine explains the importance of texture, which is defined by cooking method, when pairing wine. with seafood. The same fish prepared differently could go with either red or white — it all depends on how you cook it and what texture it obtains. A heartier fish cooked in the oven, like a roasted salmon, could work well with a red. A silky salmon that was poached in olive oil, on the other hand, would work better with white.
Wine Enthusiast’s basic guideline is to match the texture of the seafood with the body — the lightness or heartiness — of the wine. Lighter seafood dishes go well with lighter reds, like Grenache, Syrah or a light Pinot Noir. Heavier, meatier seafood dishes, like grilled swordfish and tuna, hold up well with bolder red wines like Gamays.
Flavor is equally important. As the New York Times puts it, “for a rich fish, red wine flatters.”The Times explains that if you’re treating fish like meat — like cooking tuna with a red-wine sauce — red wine is preferable to white. Also, if you’re cooking seafood with meat, you should consider a red. The Times suggests staying away from oaky or tannic wines and choosing lighter wines like a Cabernet Franc, Burgundy or Rioja. Grilled fish might have a smoky flavor that would taste really good with red wine, as would fish cooked with a savory, mushroom sauce.
Master Sommelier Virginia Philip told Serious Eats that tuna tartare “can easily go with a rosé or Pinot Noir.” Kerri O’Brien, Sommelier at DBGB Kitchen & Bar, thinks that a light Pinot Noir can work with arctic char or roasted black bass.
Here are 12 seafood dishes you could try with a glass of red wine. What seafood dishes have you enjoyed with a glass of red?
- 12 Bouillabaisse with Red Pepper Rouille