How To Pair Red and White Wine With Seafood

by JJ Buckley Fine Wines

Perfectly seared salmon on a bed of tender beets

One of the things that makes seafood so exceptional is that it’s so versatile. Not only is there a wide range of species, but you can cook it in a variety of ways. You can grill it, bake it, poach it, even eat it raw. You can keep many dishes simple or sauce them with a buttery cream sauce or rich, zesty tomato sauce. 

‌The only thing that makes a perfectly prepared seafood dish better is pairing it with a glass of wine (although an ocean view would be pretty nice, too). When it comes to fish and shellfish, you typically only hear about white wine pairings. While whites may be the classic go-to wines, they’re not your only option. Plenty of red wines go well with a variety of seafood dishes, too. Here, we’ll provide you with some quick tips on how to pair wine with seafood, as well as some great combinations you should try for your next ocean-inspired meal.

Tips for Pairing Wines With Seafood

Since fish and shellfish are so flexible, a wide variety of wines will pair well with different dishes. According to tradition, you’re supposed to drink white wine with seafood, but sometimes red wines make an ideal pairing. 

When pairing wine and seafood, the type of fish or shellfish and how you’re preparing it matters. Texture and flavors are essential considerations to keep in mind. Generally more delicate white fish need a lighter white wine like Pinot Gris or Grüner Veltliner. Meatier species do well with a more robust wine like oaked Chardonnay.

To help narrow down your options, consider how you’re cooking your seafood and the other flavors of the dish. Seafood prepared with a cream sauce needs an acidic wine to help cut through the fat and cleanse the palate. On the other hand, a spicy seafood meal needs a wine with sweetness to help balance the heat. 

When it comes to pairing red wines specifically with seafood you still need to consider how you prepare the dish, the sauce you use – if any, and the accompanying flavors. Another thing to keep in mind is the wine’s tannins. You’ll want to avoid pairing tannins with acidity, which can otherwise lead to a metallic taste in the mouth. If you want to have red wine with your seafood dish, avoid meals that have a squeeze of lemon or lemon-based sauce, and choose a red with low tannins. 

Caviar and Champagne

One of the most outstanding wine and seafood pairings is Champagne and caviar. A dry Champagne plays well with the high oil, fat, and salt content of the caviar, providing an incredible flavor experience while cleansing the palate at the same time. If bubbly wines aren’t your thing, an herbaceous or citrusy Sauvignon Blanc makes another excellent option. 

Crab Cakes and Sauvignon Blanc

Crab cakes are a favorite among many seafood lovers. Fried or baked they’re slightly sweet, crunchy, and a bit herbaceous. You generally serve these delicious patties with a cream-based sauce like remoulade or tartar sauce. The bright acidity of a Sauvignon Blanc cuts through the fat of the dish and accentuates the flavor of the meat. Alternatively, you could also serve this dish with a fruity, floral Viognier

Sea Bass and Pinot Gris

Sea bass is a mild, flaky fish. It’s delicious roasted in the oven with a bit of olive oil, salt, pepper, and fresh thyme. It’s very tasty pan-fried and topped with a lemon, garlic, and herb sauce. It also makes fantastic fish tacos.

One of the best wines to serve with sea bass is Pinot Gris. The bright acidity of the wine awakens the flavors of the otherwise mild fish. Other zesty, refreshing wines to pair with sea bass include Sauvignon Blanc, Grüner Veltliner, and Albariño.  

Lobster and Chardonnay

Lobster is one of the most decadent types of seafood. It’s also one that you can prepare a few different ways. Whether you bake your lobster, broil it, grill it, or steam it, Chardonnay is undoubtedly the top choice when it comes to choosing a wine to serve alongside. The wine also works well if you add a cream sauce or a drizzle of butter. 

Chardonnay isn’t your only option here. You can also pair lobster with Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, or Gerwürztraminer. For lobster dishes with tomato-based sauces, consider a red wine like an unoaked Barbera.

Tuna and Rosé

Believe it or not, tuna and Rosé is a classic French pairing. One taste and you’ll understand why so many people love the combination. Tuna is a meatier fish with a more intense flavor than some other varieties. Rosé cuts through that meatiness and fat, cleansing the palate with each sip. The matching pink color of a beautifully seared tuna steak and the wine also adds to the perfectness of the pairing.

Salmon and Pinot Noir

Like tuna, salmon is a heartier, meatier fish. As such, it can stand up to some red wines. One of the best reds for this fish is a beautiful Pinot Noir. It offers a higher acidity, which cuts through the fattiness of the fish, and the fruity, earthy notes work well with the rich, buttery flavor. At the same time, the iron-rich fish enhances the fruity flavors in the wine. 

Dry Rosé wines also work well with a variety of salmon dishes. A sparkling Rosé provides an excellent contrast to smoked salmon, or you might consider pairing a fruity Rosé Champagne with barbequed salmon. 

Sardines and Nebbiolo

Sardines are intensely flavored oily fish. As such, they can stand up to a bolder, more tannic wine such as Nebbiolo. The tannins in the wine release the flavor carried in the fat of the fish. At the same time, the fat of the fish mellows the astringency of the wine allowing the wine’s other characteristics to shine. 

Find the Perfect Wine Pairing for Your Next Seafood Dish 

Seafood is an incredibly versatile protein. There’s a variety of species that you can prepare in numerous different ways. Not only that, but you have many options when it comes to complementing your dishes with the perfect glass of wine.

The terrific thing about seafood being so versatile is that you aren’t limited to whites only. Many dishes pair incredibly well with red wines, too. No matter what seafood dish you plan to serve at your next meal, JJ Buckley Fine Wines has the perfect bottle of wine to serve alongside it. With a broad range of whites and reds, you’re sure to find the right fit. If you’re unsure of what to select, our consultancy service is here to help. Visit JJ Buckley online to browse our selection today!