Benjamin Mitrofan-Norris on October 17, 2016 0 Comments Sometimes, the world of fine food and wine can be a restrictive place. For all the talk of liberté and egalité that is implicit within viticulture and wine drinking, there are an astonishing number of rules — written and unwritten — which are strictly upheld through the medium of downward glances, muttered words and suchlike. These range from the appallingly complicated system of which glass is used for each wine, to the temperatures at which wines are served, and methods of pouring and storing of wine which baffle the uninitiated and which probably have little practical meaning for those who stick by them to the letter. 5 Quick and Easy Seafood Recipes One set of rules, however, does come from practicality and logic, rather than from ritual and pretentiousness; that of pairing wine with food. Wine and food matching is a complicated art which, when successful, adds so much to both components of a meal, and allows both the food and the wine to become more than the mere sum of their parts. An unsuccessful pairing can make a whole meal pointless. A good sommelier will take into consideration the primary and secondary flavors of the dish, and allow these to harmonize with the tasting notes present in the wine. The delicacy of the meal is also thought of, as the wine should not be allowed to dominate or eradicate the subtler touches of the food, and with the opposite also being true. What would be the point of serving a delicately-flavored salad alongside a full-bodied bottle of Bordeaux? The wine would be the only thing detectable on the palate, and the meal would be ruined. While food and wine pairing can be extremely complex, there are some basic rules which have become common knowledge, and which are used as go-to devices for those looking to make quick and simple matches in their own homes, or when eating out at a restaurant. Possibly the most prevalent of these is the mantra that only white wine should be served with fish. This has become a rule that has for too long remained unquestioned and unchallenged…but why? And is it really true? Breaking the Rules Once you understand a few basic rules about food and wine pairing, you can start to break them. Rules were, after all, made to be broken! The idea that fish is to be served with white wine — and nothing else — has stuck around for a very long time, and is based on the idea that fish dishes are generally quite delicately flavored. In the French tradition of high cuisine, this is generally true: fillets of white, translucently-fleshed fish are lightly cooked in butter, infused with bouquets of herbs, and seasoned gently to allow the subtle notes of the seafood to express themselves fully. In dishes like this, I would agree with almost everybody else in the world that white wines would be more appropriate. But the world of fine food is no longer dictated by the French. This is the twenty-first century, where fine dining is held in the same regard as Vietnamese street food, peasant dishes from Central Europe and artisanal burger joints — we are savvy enough and capable enough to begin thinking outside the box. The simple fact of the matter is that there are many fish dishes which would absolutely benefit from being served with red wines, and to not do so would be a real missed opportunity. Thinking About Texture and Flavor One of the main things to consider when choosing a wine to go with your fish dish is texture. Some fish is silkily textured — think white fish like bass and bream — while others are more coarsely, heartily textured and robust. This is significant, as food which has a denser quality generally goes well with red wine. The other thing to bear in mind is, of course, how the fish is cooked, and the other components of the dish. Several popular fish (salmon, tuna, swordfish, shark…) are commonly cooked in much the same way as you’d cook meat. Seared over high heat, roasted with herbs and vegetables, stewed in a pot with paprika and spices, and as a general rule, these are the fish dishes which are better paired with red wine. The depth of flavor and the prevalence of spice in your dish will dictate how heavy you want your red wine to be: lighter dishes will need a softer touch — perhaps a Chianti or similar Tuscan red, a Grenache or a Pinot Noir, while robust, strongly spiced and deeply flavored dishes can often stand up to stronger, more full-bodied red wines like a Gamay or Cabernet. Buy Red Wine on Amazon Here are some of our favorite fish and red wine pairings. Try them yourself! 1. Tuna Let’s put aside the tinned tuna for a moment, and keep it in the back of the cupboard where it belongs. Tuna is at its best when served as a steak, full of those rich, deep flavor and iron-rich notes. When lightly fried and gently spiced, tuna steak is a joy to eat alongside a soft and fruity New World Merlot, which brings forward to juiciness and sweetness of the meat. If you like your tuna charred or barbecued, this fish can really stand up to a stronger wine, such as a Barbera or Syrah. 2. Swordfish, Kingfish and Shark These fish are the real meaty options, densely fleshed with a great balance of flavor. In middle eastern and Mediterranean cuisine, you’ll often find these fish served as steaks, grilled and dusted with paprika, turmeric and a range of other, exotic spices. There’s no way a white wine would do these sorts of fish justice, and to bring out the depth of flavor from the fish, they’re best served with a Pinot Noir or Sangiovese wine. 3. Salmon Possibly the most popular fish in the western world, and certainly one of the most versatile. Again, the wine pairing for this fish would depend mainly on how it is prepared, but if you’re pan roasting your salmon, or serving it as a robust, fishy steak, matching it with red wine will reveal some fantastic and fascinating flavor combinations. The trick would be to source a low-tannin red wine, which will stop the dish from bringing forward any metallic notes. My recommendations would be a bright, light Beaujolais — a traditional pairing in rustic French cooking — or a Valpolicella blend where Corvina is the dominant grape. Smoked salmon is delicious alongside Pinot Noir, too, especially those from Burgundy. 4. Shellfish Dishes Fancy a seafood paella, or some spicy crab? While most people would immediately reach for the white wine, you might find that something a little more robust would suit the condiments and secondary flavors in these sorts of dishes. Malaysian and Vietnamese spices with crab and other shellfish are very much en vogue at the moment, and a ruby-red Sangiovese wine would be a far more appropriate match for these than any white wine. The Spanish wouldn’t hesitate to eat their famous seafood paella, rich with mussels and squid and prawns, with a glass of inexpensive Rioja — so why should you? So, give these pairings a try, and start ripping up that rulebook!