Summertime is here and with it warmer weather and lighter fare. We think seafood, from fresh oysters to plank-grilled salmon, is the perfect solution! But pairing wine with seafood can be intimidating, so we asked Jennifer Ingellis, our partner in Williams-Sonoma Wine and one of Food & Wine’s 2012 Sommeliers of the Year, for her top wine picks to pair with some of our favorite seafood recipes. Read on for her helpful hints and food pairing suggestions, then pick up a bottle for your next dinner party.
Choose wines from seaside regions
Look to places around the world whose cuisine is centered on fish for inspiration. The wines from these seaside regions are tailor-made for seafood and local winemakers have, for centuries, crafted wines to pair with the “fruits of the sea”– the heart of their cuisine. One of our favorite fish dishes, fish with lemon-caper sauce, works well with a Sicilian white from the slopes of Mt. Etna: Murgo Etna Bianco.
Delicate vs. rich seafood
Just like other food and wine pairings, if the type of seafood or the overall dish is delicate or lighter in style, a light, dry white wine is in order. Conversely, if the seafood dish is more substantial, a richer, more full-bodied white would be the best choice. Grilled lobster tails are perfect paired with a rich, butteryCalifornia Chardonnay, whereas simply prepared raw oysters with mignonette are best when paired with a dry, crisp white wine, or sparkling wine.
Pair light reds with fish
Throw out any notion that only white wine goes with fish or seafood. In fact, lighter red wines stand up beautifully to many hearty or spicy seafood dishes. For instance, Spanish paella with shrimp, chorizo, and chicken is classically paired with Tempranillo, or cedar-planked salmon is seamless with Pinot Noir. Strong-flavored and dark-fleshed fish, like swordfish, also pairs well with reds. And finally, look to other bold ingredients in the recipe for guidance; many seafood dishes incorporating mushrooms or olives can also stand up to light red wines.
Sweet, spicy, or tropical flavors
Sweet-fleshed fish and shellfish, like prawns and crab, pair naturally with juicy, fruit-driven whites, like Sauvignon Blanc from the U.S., German Riesling, or French Chenin Blanc. If the dish incorporates a bit of Chile heat, such as in a fish curry, look to a white wine with more fruit, like an off-dry Riesling. Or, if tropical fruit or citrus is the collaborating ingredient, such as in shrimp tacos with pineapple salsa, look to a juicy Sauvignon Blanc, like this one from Banshee.
We hope these tips will help you navigate the ocean of possibilities and combinations. Just remember to have fun along the way and experiment with pairings. Some of the best combinations can happen purely by chance!