Red wine with fish, why not? Well, for many the rule is red wine with red meat, white wine with white meat and seafood. This “rule” serves as a easy guide, but does not always have to be followed. There are exceptions to wine and food combinations.
There are no absolute standards of taste. The best food and wine combination is one you like, regardless of rules or what others may think. Have confidence in your own taste and preferences. Don’t be intimidated by other people’s opinions of what tastes good or what tastes bad. A good pairing is one that you like.
It’s the sauce. If you are covering your meat, seafood and pasta with any kind of sauce, then you should pair the wine with the sauce, not what’s under it. Typically the flavor of the sauce dominates the dish. For example you might choose a hearty white wine with simple roasted chicken, but chicken cacciatore demands a big red Chianti. Same meat, different sauce, different wine. So, always consider the sauce.
Match the flavor intensity of the wine with the flavor intensity of the food. Intensely flavored foods must be paired with intensely flavored wines and mild flavored foods paired with mild flavored wines. Most bad pairings come from ignoring this common sense rule. You want to taste both the food and the wine, not one or the other. Foods with delicate flavors like veal or flakey white fish would be overwhelmed by a full-bodied red wine, just as a spicy marinara sauce will virtually cancel out a delicate Pinot Noir. Match flavor intensities.
Look for complementary characteristics in the food and wine. For example, Pinot Noir and mushrooms have complementary earthiness, Sauvignon Blanc and vinegar-based salad dressings have complementary acidity (think citrus), and dessert wines and rich, fruit-based deserts have complementary sweetness and fruitiness. Look for complementary characteristics.
Given these rules, can we pair red wine with seafood? How about salmon and Pinot Noir, Chianti and mussels marinara or swordfish and Merlot? Can you see why these red wines work with these seafood dishes? Salmon is delicate, but has a moderately strong earthy flavor, ideal for a light earthy Pinot Noir. The marinara on the mussels is a natural with the Chianti or a peppery red Zinfandel. And, the swordfish steak is dark and flavorful enough to stand up to a soft medium-bodied Merlot.
So, you see it’s not the color of the wine or the color of the meat; it’s the flavor characteristics of the wine and the preparation of the food. It’s taste, not color that matters. But remember, what really matters is what you like. Keep an open mind and experiment with new wine and food combinations at every opportunity.