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How to pair wine with fish and shellfish

With these simple wine pairing tips, you’ll be able to match wines to all your favourite seafood dishes with ease. From everyday salmon to Friday night’s fish and chips, and even the best special occasion shellfish, we’ve got you covered.

How to match wine with flaky white fish, like sole and plaice

Sole, plaice and sea bass are delicate-tasting fish and are delicious cooked with a few simple flavourings, such as lemon, garlic and fresh herbs. For a winning wine match, go for something dry and white with lots of acidity and fresh flavours of citrus and crisp apples. Italian whites, such as Pinot Grigio and Gavi, or Chablis from France make ideal partners.

1400x919 Grilled sea bass

How to match wine with firm white fish, like cod, haddock and hake

As cod, haddock and hake are meatier fish, they stand up well to bolder cooking – think curries, stews, batter and more. It’s worth considering any additional flavours when choosing a wine to match with your fish dish.

When it comes Friday night fish and chips, bubbles are the way to go. Champagne, prosecco and Cava all do a brilliant job of cutting through the heavy batter, making the whole dish taste lighter and fresher. The bubbles and acidity also complement the lemon squeezed over your fish and the vinegar on your chips.

1400x919 Fish and chips

If you’re using firm white fish in a curry or stew, then there are probably some big flavours involved. Rosé from Provence would be a good option as you’ll have some refreshing acidity but also some red fruit flavours. For a more daring choice, a light red like Beaujolais works well, especially if served lightly chilled. You still get plenty of acidity and there’s even more fruit flavours to stand up to the flavours of the stew. Prefer to stick to white? Go for something with plenty of character from the Rhône. Go for something fuller bodied, check the label for promises of stone fruit flavours and some oak ageing.

And don’t forget to consider the level of spice involved. For anything with more than a hint of chilli, high-alcohol wines can really inflame that burning sensation. To avoid this, opt for a wine with a lower alcohol content, such as a Riesling.

1400x919 Asian fish parcels recipe

How to match wine with meaty fish like tuna and monkfish

When matching wine with tuna it’s important to distinguish between fresh tuna and tinned tuna and to give some thought to the cooking method.

Fresh tuna has an almost buttery, melt-in-the-mouth intensity, so choose a wine that brings out these flavours. Something with refreshing acidity is key, but bigger berry flavours like Spanish rosé or even a lightly spiced Pinot Noir are excellent options for meaty tuna steaks. The Pinot will be particularly good if the tuna is barbecued as its subtle, spiced notes stands up well to chargrilled, smoky flavours.

Tinned tuna is often a favourite ingredient in a pasta bake or pie, and if there’s cream or dairy involved, you’ll want a wine with rich flavours to match. A Pouilly Fumé has a balanced creamy and mineral finish, making it a great option.

Tuna and butterbean pie recipe 1400x919

Monkfish is incredibly firm and doesn’t easily flake, making it great for risottos, stews and curries. It can also be grilled or roasted. If it’s roasted, then look out for a label that talks about fresh acidity like Spanish white Albariño to really bring out the flavours. However if the monkfish is cooked with Mediterranean vegetables, such as peppers, tomatoes and courgettes, then opt for something a little fruitier like a southern French rosé where the flavours of juicy berries come through.

How to match wine with fresh, smoked or tinned salmon and trout

When matching wine with salmon and trout, it’s important to first think about what type of salmon you’re eating, and then how it’s going to be prepared, plus what it will be cooked and served with.

For salmon served in a tart, en croûte or with a buttery or creamy sauce, pick a white wine that talks about oak on the label. A Chardonnay will have similar levels of creaminess and enough intensity that the wine won’t be overpowered by the food.

1400x919 KedgereeStyleSalmonTart

With smoked salmon and trout, you need to consider not just the smoky flavour but the oiliness too. Champagne, cava and English sparkling wine are good choices as they have faintly toasty notes, but with excellent acidity to cut through the richness of the fish. Other strong options include Sancerre for its crisp, gooseberry flavours or Riesling for its minerality, which, again, works well to counteract that richness.

For tinned salmon, similar rules apply. If it’s served as a hash or in a fishcake, an oaky Chardonnay or dry sparkling wine will work best.

RFO 1400x919 HashTinnedSalmon

How to match wine with oily fish like mackerel, sardines and anchovies

Mackerel, sardines, anchovies and other oily fish are generally best served with crisp, dry white wines, like Italian Pinot Grigio. However, if you like your sardines barbecued – giving them a lightly charred, smoky flavour – they can stand up to a wine with more red fruit, such as an Italian rosé . If you’re looking for something to serve with a smoked mackerel pâté, an oaky Chardonnay will complement the creaminess.

1400x919 HerbCrustedMackerelLemonCauliflowerMash

How to match wine with shellfish like prawns, crab and mussels

When it comes to prawns, crab and mussels, a delicate white wine, with lots of acidity and simple fresh citrus flavours will help show them off at their sweet, delicate best. A Picpoul de Pinet is a good choice for this. 

RFO 1400x919 Pint of prawns

If you’re teaming your shellfish up with tropical ingredients like pineapple or mango, then a wine with similar tropical flavours, such as Sauvignon Blanc or Sémillon.

If you’re adding flavours like garlic and chorizo, then a Spanish white Rioja is a good option as it’s still crisp, but has floral flavours layered over citrus.

RFO 1400x919 One pot cider mussels with leeks and tagliatelle

And if there’s any chilli heat involved, an aromatic, lower-alcohol wine like a Riesling will help you avoid that excessive burning sensation.

1400x919 CrabLinguine

Your quick guide to pairing wine with fish

If it’s a simple recipe and the fish or seafood is delicate, pick a crisp and elegant option like Chablis or Pinot Grigio, which won’t overpower it. If in doubt, a chilled, dry white wine pairs well with most simple seafood dishes.

If there are creamy flavours involved, an oaky Chardonnay is a good choice.

Bigger flavours can withstand more complexity, if your dish is cooked on the barbecue, and full of charred and smoky flavours don’t rule out rosé, or light reds like Pinot Noir or Beaujolais.

If there’s a hint of spice, choose a lower-alcohol wine like a Riesling.

For more help on pairing wine with food read our helpful guide How do I choose wine for my meal by Charlotte Lemoine, Tesco product development manager.

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