There’s no feeling like the fresh saltwater breeze coming off the water as you dine al fresco on a balmy summer night. With warmer evenings upon us, we’re all searching for an opportunity to take advantage of everything this time of year has to offer. From salty lobster to tender salmon, nothing goes better with seafood than a nice glass of wine. Seeing as there are experts who specialize in this task alone, a perfect pairing can be tricky to attain, so it’s important to keep a couple things in mind.
As noted by Nicole Ruiz Hudson, Certified Somm with Court of Master Sommeliers and former contributor to Wine Spectator, it’s important to consider not only the fish itself, but also the accompaniments and sauces when pairing wine. “Certain fattier fish like salmon and tuna can take lighter bodied/low tannin reds like Pinot Noir, Beaujolais, or even a Rioja Crianza, if they’re served with a heavier sauce,” Hudson said. “This is also true for certain fish and shellfish stews.”
However, for fish served with lighter sauces, sauces with herbs, or dishes containing lots of vegetables, Hudson suggests wines like Sauvignon Blanc, while Chablis and Muscadet are classically paired with oysters. Furthermore, Hudson told us that fish served with Asian or Indian flavors are often paired with Riesling or Gewurztraminer, and a light, buttery Chardonnay with a little oak works best with butter sauces. With those tips in mind, here are five of the best wines to pair with fresh fish.
1. Clambake Unoaked Chardonnay with steamers and butter
According to Mary McAuley, sommelier and founder and CEO of Ripe Life Wines, whose expertise is in helping consumers select good wines to pair with coastal cuisine, Clambake Unoaked Chardonnay — made from grapes grown in Mendocino, Calif. — is the way to go when eating shellfish. McAuley explains:
Its acid content makes this wine especially perfect for steamers and butter by emulating that squeeze of fresh lemon we love to put on seafood, especially pungent clams, and by cutting through that fat in the butter. But, since it’s still Chardonnay, the Clambake has the richness and body in the mouthfeel that can stand up to clams and butter, and not be overpowered.
2. Indivisible Sauvignon Blanc with ceviche
The Indivisible Sauvignon Blanc from Preamble Wines is a light and crisp California Sauvignon Blanc, making it a perfect choice for pairing with ceviche. “This one in particular is so delicate and light it doesn’t overpower this refreshing and zesty dish, but it also boasts hints of bell pepper, leafy herbs, and tropical fruit that bring out the best flavors in a classic ceviche,” McAuley told us.
3. Robert Sinskey Rosé of Pinot Noir and lobster cocktail
If you’re a loyal fan of fresh lobster no matter which coast you’re on, the Rosé of Pinot Noir from Robert Sinskey makes the perfect match. “There is a subtle sweetness in lobster meat that pairs extremely well with the candied fruit notes in a dry rosé,” McAuley said. “This rosé is one of the lightest and most delicate to come out of California, so its body and finish is perfect for a chilled and simple lobster cocktail. The wine’s complexity, though, with gorgeous ripe berry flavors brings out the very best in the delicacy of lobster meat.”
4. Domaine Sigalas Santorini Assyrtiko and halibut
The Domaine Sigalas Santorini Assyrtiko blends two grapes indigenous to Santorini; the Assyrtiko variety, which is intense and earthy, and the Athiri variety, which is aromatic, and quince-scented. Trisha Antonsen, chief cocktail officer at Drizly, a leading on-demand alcohol delivery service, says this wine from Greece is the perfect pairing for fresh fish. “This crisp, citrusy, white wine pairs well with medium-textured fish like cod or halibut,” Antonsen said.
5. Juve Y Camps Cava and anchovies
With aromas of white peach, toasted bread, and green tea with hints of lemon citrus and apricots, the Juve Y Camps Cava makes a great pairing option for fish that has a stronger flavor. As the Cava of choice of Spain’s royal family, this wine is highly recommended by Antonsen. “Honey and ginger notes in this sparkling white wine naturally balance with flaky white fish, but would also complement more strong flavored fish such as fresh anchovies or sardines.”