Pairing Wine with Fish & Shellfish
The old rule was white wine with fish. Today, anything goes, and red wines are often a good complement, especially with meaty or oily fish. It isn't so much the fish as the accompanying sauce that makes the difference. White wine is still often the best choice with simple, unsauced grilled or broiled fish, with the notable exception of Pinot Noir with salmon.
With fresh grilled anchovies, try Sauvignon Blanc from California or the Loire Valley in France, or a Spanish Manzanilla sherry.
For fried calamari, choose a fruity Chenin Blanc from California or an Italian Pinot Grigio. For calamari cooked in tomato sauce, try a pungent Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand or California.
Serve Champagne, top-quality dry California sparkling wine or unoaked French Chardonnay from Chablis.
Sherry, dry rosé from northern Spain, or unoaked Chardonnay from Chile or California are good choices.
Serve a big, oaky Chardonnay from California or Australia. If you prefer red, try a medium-weight California Pinot Noir from Carneros or the Central Coast.
For simple steamed clams, serve a white Bordeaux, Sauvignon Blanc from the Loire or a dry rosé. For clams in cream sauce, try a mid-range white Burgundy from France or a medium-oaked California Chardonnay. Clams in tomato sauce require an acidic Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand or Muscadet from the Loire in France. For clams in wine sauce, drink a better version of the wine used in the sauce.
With broiled cod, try Pinot Blanc from California or a white Bordeaux from France. With dried cod (Bacalão), serve Pinot Gris from Oregon or Sauvignon Blanc from California.
Chardonnay from California or the state of Washington are both superb matches with fresh boiled crab or mild crab cakes.
An oaky Chardonnay from Australia or California or a good-quality German Riesling are fine choices.
Serve an unoaked Sauvignon Blanc from California or Chardonnay from the Finger Lakes region of New York.
With broiled halibut, try an Italian Pinot Grigio, a California Pinot Blanc, or a lightly oaked Chilean or California Chardonnay.
For boiled lobster, buy the best white Burgundy from France or California Chardonnay you can afford. For lobster Newburgh, open a crisp Chardonnay from New York, or a light Pinot Noir from Oregon or the Russian River Valley in California.
With broiled mackerel, try a California Viognier or an Oregon Pinot Gris.
Serve a lightly oaked Chardonnay or Pinot Noir from California, or a fresh and fruity French Beaujolais.
For plain steamed mussels, choose a dry Riesling from Alsace, or an unoaked Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Blanc from California. With mussels in cream sauce, try a lightly oaked California Chardonnay or a German Riesling; in tomato sauce, serve an herbal, high-acid Sauvignon Blanc; and for wine sauce, open a better version of the wine used in the sauce.
With raw oysters, serve Chablis from France, dry Riesling from Alsace, a good California sparkling wine, unoaked Sauvignon Blanc or a light California Pinot Noir.
With grilled snapper, try Pinot Noir or a light Merlot from California.
Salmon is a red wine fish. Serve with California or Oregon Pinot Noir, a good red Burgundy or a Beaujolais from France. If you prefer a white wine, choose a subtly oaky, elegant Chardonnay from California.
Try grilled or baked sardines with a Spanish Albariño or a dry Orvieto from Italy.
Serve a buttery California or Australian Chardonnay, or a young Merlot from the state of Washington.
White Bordeaux from France, Sauvignon Blanc from California and Chilean Chardonnay all pair well with this fish.
This dense, meaty fish calls for a Pinot Noir from New York state or a Merlot from the state of Washington.
Shrimp and Prawns
For shrimp in garlic sauce, serve a light to medium-weight red, such as a Merlot from Washington state. For fried or grilled shrimp (or prawns), try Sauvignon Blanc from the Loire in France or from California.
Serve Gewürztraminer, Pinot Gris or Riesling from Alsace, or a grassy Sauvignon Blanc from California or New Zealand.
French Chablis or a lightly oaked California Sauvignon Blanc makes a good pairing with this delicate fish.
Serve grilled swordfish with California Chardonnay or French white Burgundy.
Freshwater trout is rather delicate. Serve with an unoaked Chardonnay from California or Oregon, an Albariño from Spain or a Pinot Grigio from Italy. Sea trout can take Chardonnay or Viognier from California.
This fish has red wine potential. Try a southern Rhône from France, young Zinfandel, Pinot Noir or Merlot from California. For whites, open a big, buttery Chardonnay from California or Australia.
Adapted from The Wine Guide (Time-Life Books, 1999)