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How to Pair Wines with Fish


When choosing a wine to serve with fish, let your recipe’s flavors make the selection.

Variety and versatility are two of fish’s biggest advantages. But with so many options available –- at the fish counter and in your recipe files -– the question of what wine to pair with fish can be downright puzzling.

The soundest advice regarding fish is the same advice we’ve offered for other dishes like salads,  braised meat, and picnic foods: treat wine as another layer of flavor, and let the ingredients in your recipe lead the way. Keep that in mind, bring these tips with you to the wine store, and you’re bound to pair perfectly.

More: Another bit of advice? Drink what you like.

Baked Fish

when your fish is mild in flavor, look to the prominent ingredients in the recipe — sometimes they’ll practically raise their hands and wave them in the air. Let them. The lime and tarragon in this recipe, for example, take center stage, with a mild-flavored fish like cod or sea bass as the backdrop. This means you’ll need to choose a wine whose characteristics wrap themselves around the citrus and herbs, but don’t smother them. Try a Viognier from California or channel your inner Hemingway and choose a Muscadet from the Loire Valley.


Grilled Fish

Summer is prime grilling season, which is the perfect reason to play with both your cooking and your wine! With grilled fish dishes, consider the smoky or charred flavor that comes from the preparation. For a slightly sweet, slightly smoky recipe like this Cedar Plank Grilled Loup de Mar, that’s the flavor you should follow with your wine choice. Try a white wine with nuance, such as Alex Gambal’s Fixin Blanc from Burgundy for an eye-opening treat.

Smoked Fish

Smoked fish is full of flavor in its own right, which can open the door to unusual pairings with both white and red wines. A dish like this salmon, seasoned with soy, Chinese five spice powder, sesame oil, ginger, and miring would pair best with a Riesling — as most Asian-influenced dishes do. Look for Rieslings from Washington State, like a dry Riesling from Pacific Rim in the Columbia Valley. For an edgier pairing, reach for a versatile, round Italian red like Sangiovese.

Put fish’s variety and versatility to work for you: start with the ingredients that your recipe naturally highlights, and let those flavors guide you to a successful wine pairing.


By Cathy Huyghe, Food 52