Because there is such a large array of types of fish and so many ways of preparing it, there is a wide variety of wines suitable to serve with fish. Both the flavour and texture of the fish are key and are often categorized into the following four groups:
- Lean and flaky mild fish
- Medium textured fish
- Meaty fish
- Strong flavoured fish
Lean and Flaky Mild Fish
Lean mild fish include sole, perch, flounder, tilapia and sea bass. These fish pair well with fresh zesty white wines including Sauvignon Blanc, Unoaked Chardonnay or Chablis, Champagne, Muscadet, Portuguese whites or Greek whites.
Medium Textured Fish
Medium textured fish are considered as flaky fish but are of a firmer and thicker texture than the lean fish. Some experts would include sea bass in this category in addition to trout, arctic char, haddock and cod.
Wine pairing options to consider include medium bodied oaked Chardonnay, California or New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, White Rioja, Sémillon, Pinot Gris or Vermentino.
Fish considered as meaty include salmon, tuna, bluefish, monkfish, mahi mahi, shark, and swordfish. The range of wine options increase with this category to include dry Rosé and lighter reds.
Wine pairings include whites such as oaked Chardonnay, Champagne, White Burgundy, Grenache Blanc, Riesling and Pinot Gris, as well as reds such as Pinot Noir, Beaujolais and Valpolicella.
Strong Flavoured Fish
Strong flavoured fish are oilier, as well as being stronger in flavour. Included in this category are herring, mackerel, sardines and anchovies. These fish need to be offset by crisp bracing wines, including both white and chilled red options.
White options include Champagne, Sauvignon Blanc, White Bordeaux and Grenache Blanc. Red wine choices would be Gamay and Pinot Noir.
Preparations and Sauces
The way the fish is cooked, whether it is baked, fried or grilled, influences the wine choice as well. Further complicating things is the inclusion of other ingredients. For example, spicy dishes are served best with a wine containing some sweetness in order to offset the heat. Fish served in a cream sauce is best served with a more acidic wine in order to cleanse the palate.
Since curry sauces tend to be a little bit on the sweet side they pair well with wines such as Riesling, Gewürztraminer or Prosecco.
Herb sauces will often contain basil, parsley, dill, chives, mint, cilantro, dill, lemongrass, capers or even cucumber. Complimentary wines include Sauvignon Blanc, Chablis or Trebbiano.
Spicy sauces will be made with paprika, pepper, cumin, coriander or chili. Such fish dishes will pair well with Grüner Veltliner, Gewürztraminer, Riesling or a red Grenache.
Pineapple, mango, orange, teriyaki and sweet and sour sauce are all considered as sweet. The lighter coloured sauces pair well with a Riesling whereas the darker sauces, such as teriyaki, are well complimented by a Rosé.
These include lemon, lime or vinegar-based sauces that will pair well with light zesty wines such as Sauvignon Blanc, Muscadet, White Bordeaux or Grenache Blanc.
Fish and Chips
A fresh, dry white wine with a high level of acidity is best suited for countering the fattiness of battered fish. A crisp Sauvignon Blanc pairs well, as does a dry Champagne or similar white sparkler.
If raw fish is your thing, it will pair well with an extra dry white wine such as Muscadet or Trebbiano or a red such as Pinot Noir or Burgundy.
Smoked fish, such as salmon or trout, will be a little drier than unsmoked fish of the same species. Smoked fish will pair well with a vintage Champagne, Sparkling Rosé, dry Riesling or White Pinot Noir.