Which Wines are Perfect with Fish Dishes? Underground Cellar Explains

Pairing wine and food together successfully is undoubtedly an art and skill – hence the need for sommeliers in the top restaurants. But not everyone boasts the skills of a wine artisan or aficionado, meaning that, occasionally, a trip to a top-tier restaurant can be marred by a poor choice of wine.

Fish – a food that many steer clear of for various reasons – is a dish that is notoriously difficult to pair effectively with wine, despite white wine being acknowledged as ideal (although lighter reds and some rosés can also work). Which white wine to go for? Why? How does the type of fish, the way it’s cooked and the seasoning affect the wine choice?

Fried Fish

A potentially rogue suggestion, the fattiness of fried fish – often accompanied by a salty, acidic drizzle – blends perfectly with prosecco. Underground Cellar suggest the pairing of a sweeter, citrusy prosecco alongside the fatty, salty fish balances the flavors and helps to refresh the palate between each bite. Go on – give it a go!   

Spicy Fish

Again, pairing a sweeter wine – such as a Moscato – that boasts notes of vanilla and peach with a stronger, savory flavor, is ideal. A spicier fish dish, such as fish tacos or a fish curry – both of which often contain milder fish – works perfectly with the sweet tang of a Moscato, with the wine helping to ease the spiciness of the fish and add an additional flavor profile.

Oily Fish

When you’re eating fish that’s either oilier in nature, or has an oil-based dressing drizzled over it, a wine that can cut through the fattiness and refresh the palate is needed. A wine with high acidity is therefore necessary. Pinot Gris is generally considered to be a dry wine with high levels of acidity, and so it pairs well with mackerel, sardines, or herring, particularly if they’re accompanied by an oily sauce. Look for some of the best white wine regions to discover the ideal versions of this wine!

Meaty Fish

Salmon and tuna are two of the most popular choices of fish, due to their meatier textures. Within this category of fish, there’s also monkfish and swordfish, equally as tasty but less-chosen fish choices. These types of fish work well with more robust wines, with their flavors standing alone and counteracting the full-bodied acidity of wines such as a Chardonnay or Viognier.

A general rule for pairing fish and white wine is to look at the texture and flavor profile, and then find a wine that counteracts it – plaice and sole work well with lighter white wines, such as Pinot Grigios, while cod and haddock need a slightly heavier flavor, such as a white Rioja, due to the propensity for thicker, richer sauces with such fish.