How to Pair Wine and Swordfish

by JJ Buckley Fine Wines

Swordfish with roasted tomatoes and bay leaves on a plate

At some point in time, you've probably heard this commonly shared nugget of wine wisdom: white wine goes with fish. Although that piece of advice isn't completely untrue, it doesn't contain the full picture. Light red wines pair well with meatier or more flavorful fish, such as tuna, salmon, marlin, mackerel, and swordfish. And, some white wines don't pair well at all with meaty fish. To add more complexity to the situation, the way you prepare your fish and the other foods you serve with it also affects which wines are and are not appropriate to pour alongside the meal. With a little knowledge, however, you can quickly learn how to pair wine and swordfish.

About Swordfish

Swordfish can grow to be up to 10 feet long. Their size is the reason they produce some of the meatiest cuts of fish available. Sold in steaks, swordfish has a unique texture and flavor not found in most other fish. For that reason, your go-to wines for more common white fish such as cod, haddock, and halibut might not be the best choices for a swordfish pairing. There are multiple good swordfish wine pairings, however, and how you prepare the swordfish will determine which ones are most fitting for a particular meal.

Swordfish Flavor and Texture

Swordfish doesn't have a strong "fishy" flavor or odor like that found in many other types of fish. Swordfish is a good choice for people who aren't sure if they like fish or who are open to seafood but dislike the strong fish flavors found in salmon, tuna, mackerel, sardines, and herring. When raw, swordfish ranges in color from white to light pink or orange. The color variations are natural, and no one color is superior to another. When cooked, all swordfish becomes a shade of ivory or beige.

Swordfish has the consistency of a meaty fish, like tuna and halibut. Its flavor profile is distinct, yet it's mild in comparison to fish like tuna. Overall, swordfish tastes lightly sweet.

Because of its meaty consistency, swordfish is often grilled and served in steak form or as kebabs. Swordfish is also often prepared with tomatoes or herb butter. In summer months, people might opt to serve swordfish with something fresher and lighter, like citrus fruit slices or mango salsa, to complement the hotter temperature. In addition to being tasty, Swordfish is a healthy addition to your dinner plate. Not only is swordfish a source of lean protein that's low in fat and calories, it's also high in selenium, Omega 3s, B12, and other important nutrients.

Swordfish and Medium or Full-Bodied White Wine

A medium or full-bodied Chardonnay is one of the most common swordfish pairings because its full flavor matches the flavor found in the fish. A good Chardonnay will draw out a swordfish's best flavors, and the swordfish will heighten the many flavors found in the Chardonnay. These two pair so well together because they improve the taste of each other, increasing the enjoyment beyond what a person would feel if they had either item on its own.

Chardonnays are often oaky and buttery, which works well with the richness of swordfish. Many people associate oaked Chardonnay with wintertime, so it can be a good pairing if you're eating swordfish in the colder months. That said, many Chardonnays have citrusy or fruity notes that can complement swordfish served with citrus slices or fruit-based glaze.

Other full white wines to pair with swordfish include white wine from the Rhône region and Fumé Blanc. These wines have the complexity needed to balance and complement swordfish. Light-bodied whites such as Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon Blanc might fall flat in the face of swordfish, but that isn't a hard rule, as it depends on the characteristics of each particular bottle.

Swordfish and Full-Bodied Rosés

Rosé and other blush wines also pair well with swordfish, particularly when it is being served with a heavier tomato or cream sauce. Rosé often features fruity flavors, such as strawberry or cherry, along with floral and herbal notes and the occasional hint of citrus. These flavors pair wonderfully with meaty swordfish, especially when it is served well-herbed. Swordfish served with citrus slices or bathed in fresh lemon juice also pairs well with rosé.

Dry and acidic rosé complements swordfish's rich flavor and can cut through heavy sauces in a pleasant way. Stay away from the sweeter rosé options such as the ubiquitous White Zinfandel and similar sweet wines. The sweetness and fruitiness in these wines can feel over-the-top, overpowering the flavors you're wanting to notice in your swordfish.

Swordfish and Light or Medium-Bodied Red Wine

People often overlook delicious pairings of red wine and swordfish because of the oft-repeated adage that only white wine can be served with fish. Thankfully, that old rule of thumb isn't completely true. Light and medium reds can favorably complement the meaty swordfish, though full-bodied reds should be avoided as they will overwhelm its flavor. Red wine pairings make the most sense when swordfish is prepared with a heavy tomato sauce or served with richer or heavier vegetables, such as eggplant. Light reds are also commonly paired with other meaty fish, such as salmon, tuna, and marlin.

Pinot Noir is the red wine you might want to experiment with first since it's paired with swordfish more often than many other red wines. Other reds to consider include Nebbiolo, Gamay, Sangiovese, and Valpolicella. When pairing red wine with swordfish, always opt for a lighter red. That said, you might want to avoid light reds when your swordfish is being served in a spicy sauce. Red wine flavors can clash with hot spice, or even result in a metallic taste.

Let JJ Buckley Find Your Next Wine to Pair with Swordfish

Whether you're serving swordfish at a family dinner or a major event, we at JJ Buckley are available to help you pick out the perfect wine for the occasion. If you want personalized help, consider a professional wine consultation. With a wine consultation, you can talk one-on-one with an expert to make sure you understand the best possible wine options. Whether swordfish or something else is on the menu, we will make sure you end up with the perfect pairing.