Wine with Seafood

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Which of your bottles would you open for shellfish, oily fish or a delicate poached halibut?

Oyster and champagne is a match made in heaven. What about wine and seafood? When pairing wine with seafood many would instinctively reach for a chilled white. However wine experts say there are many types of seafood cooked in various styles that call for a more selective wine, even a red. A firm white halibut sauted in a buttery sauce goes well with a chardonnay. Adding mushrooms to the dish calls for a light red or rose. And what about the delicacy of lobster, scallops, crab and other shellfish?

Champagne will not fail you in any situation when it comes to serving seafood. A crisp, chilled, dry champagne goes well with fish and shellfish, whether oily or delicate; cooked in any style. Champagne may be expensive but you won’t have to scratch your head about pairing which seafood with which wine.

The tannins of the heavier reds clash with seafood and produce a metallic taste. That’s why the lighter reds with less tannins work better with seafood. Light reds like pinot noir and beaujolais, as well as a pink rose, go very well with certain seafood and can take the place of whites such as chenin blanc, pinot grigio, viognier, and white Burgundy.

Types of seafood

Delicate shellfish – When it comes to delicate seafood, champagne is faultless. For wine, delicate shellfish like scallops and lobster go well with light white wines such as vouvray of the Loire Valley, gewurztraminer of Alsace – both from France – and riesling of Germany.

White fish – White fish on its own is light and pairs well with a sauvignon blanc or the whites mentioned above. On the other hand, white fish cooked with butter or creamy sauces is transformed into something more rich so something like a chilled chardonnay pairs better.

Oily fish – Salmon, trout and mackerel are rich and oily and stand up remarkably well to certain reds. Tuna goes well with merlot. But the champagne combination remains a classic.

Wines for seafood

Red and pink

Pinot noir

The pinot noir grapes that produce the red wines of Burgundy are sensitive and a more difficult grape variety to grow, producing low yields. While red Bordeaux – either pure cabernet sauvignon or a blend of merlot, cabernet sauvignon and cabernet franc grapes – is a somewhat reliable commodity, red Burgundy is variable. It is very sensitive to climactic conditions and its yields are not high resulting in high production costs and difficulty in cultivation.

However when all is favourable red Burgundy simply surpasses all but a handful of red Bordeaux, which at times can be boringly safe. Enchanting, exciting, breathtaking are some of the adjectives that come to mind after a sip of a successful vintage of Burgundy. A good red Burgundy or pinot noir is slightly sweet with a hint of raspberries.

Other than Burgundy in France successful pinot growers can be found in regions including California’s Russian River valley of Sonoma, Santa Barbara, Chalone and Calera; Oregon; and parts of New Zealand particularly Wairarapa, Martinborough, Central Otago and Marlborough. Cool climates are key for the growing season to be long enough to nurture the sufficient flavour elements.

Beaujolais

A wine generally made of the gamay grape which has a thin skin and is low in tannins. Wine experts describe beaujolais as “the only white wine that happens to be red”. Similarly, Beaujolais is often treated like a white wine and served slightly chilled. With the subtle flavour of red berries this soft red wine would go well with fish, squid, crab, clams and other seafood.

Rose

This pink wine is more and more popular these days because better quality ones are in the market. Synthetic, sweet roses have been replaced with dry, well-balanced ones especially from Provence in France and Navarra in Spain. Rose is a refreshing wine that goes well with seafood. Rose is recommended to be enjoyed young when its fruitiness, colour and aroma are at their brightest.

White

Riesling

This white wine has the refreshing aromas of apple, peach and pear at the forefront mixed with delicate floral undertones and often honey and spice on the nose. It has a broad range of styles, and is produced in both dry to sweet variations as well as light to full bodied. Many good ones come from Germany. After champagne, riesling from Germany is your best bet when it comes to matching seafood.

Pinot gris

also known as pinot grigio, Italy’s popular white wine is produced from the pinot grigio grape varietal. This wine hails from the northeast region of Veneto and Friuli and is a light, crisp white wine that is intended to be consumed early in age.

Gewurztraminer

Gewürz means ‘spiced’ in German while Traminer is derived from the village of Tramin in the Tyrol region of Italy. Although there are Gewürztraminers produced in Italy, the most common is from Alsace in eastern France, where the sugar in the grapes is fermented out to produce a dry wine high in alcohol, often as much as 13 percent. The Gewürztraminer grape that produces the white wine is pink-skinned and thus imparts a deep coloured yellow that reminds you of hay in the sunshine. This grape variety is also grown throughout the Rhine of Germany in the wine regions of Baden, Pfalz and Rheinhessen.

Champagne

Champagne is a sparkling wine produced by inducing a secondary fermentation of wine to effect carbonation within the bottle. It is named after the Champagne region of France. Around 1700, sparkling Champagne, as we know it today, was born. Champagne first gained world renown because of its association with the anointment of French kings.

Champagne is a single Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée. Grapes must be the white Chardonnay, or the black Pinot Noir or Pinot Meunier. Also permitted but rare in usage are Pinot Blanc, Arbane and Petit Meslier.

A prestige cuvée, or cuvée de prestige, is considered to be the top of a producer’s range. Famous examples include Louis Roederer’s Cristal, Laurent-Perrier’s Grand Siècle, Moët & Chandon’s Dom Pérignon, Pol Roger’s Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill, and Taittinger’s Comtes de Champagne.