It’s the Lenten season and for many of us that means no meat on Fridays. At the end of a long, cold week, we like to come home to a good, hot meal and a nice bottle of wine. Though I love white wine, maybe more than most, a hearty red is what I like to indulge in when the nights are long and the temperatures are low, but convention states that we must drink white wine with seafood or vegetarian based dishes. Well, I say, drink what you like! If you want a red wine you should drink one. Here are my top picks for red wine with fish.
Who guessed I would say Pinot Noir? Everyone!? Well, yeah, maybe it’s predictable, but it’s also delicious! Char crusted, grilled, smoked, or pan seared, Salmon and Pinot Noir are made for each other. I stick to Oregon for the racy acidity and floral bouquets, but French style, terroir driven Pinots offer up more earth and meaty components to this feminine grape. Portobello Mushrooms sing when paired with a funky European Pinot, and richer dishes like ratatouille are lightened by their acidity.
I am not a picky eater, but when it comes to white fish and red sauce I will pass; really any kind of fish and red sauce, I’m like George W pushing Brussels sprouts off his plate. However, this doesn’t mean that I don’t know Linguini and clams in red sauce or pan seared white fish with tomatoes and herbs are heightened by the bright cherry notes and dry acidity of a like bodied Sangiovese. Sangiovese, the dominant grape in Chianti, is light to medium bodied and pairs well with many Mediterranean meals like Italian fried eggplant and tomato basil pasta, to Greek grilled octopus and swordfish with spinach and feta cheese.
When I visited Sicily, each and every day we had fish. We also had red wine that paired deliciously with all sorts of fresh fish. Simply grilled and served head on, Nero D’Avola, with its fresh acidity and bright red fruits, laid out a canvas for the briny essence of the fish. One of my favorite pairings I found in Sicily was Caponata (an eggplant appetizer) and Nero D’Avola. Caponata is very rich and can lean a bit oily, but with the Nero D’Avola’s acidity cuts through it and leaves your palate craving another salty bite.
Light, fruity, floral and just down right pretty, Beaujolais gets over shadowed by the release of Nouveau, but it is a terrific complement to Tuna burgers, grilled cheese, or any dish where fried or poached eggs are in the spotlight. All of these dishes have a rich component that the light, floral brightness lightens and elevates the dish. The acidity on Beaujolais is medium so it is easy drinking and plays well with others.
These wines are great anytime, but it’s good to stock your cellar with some of these just in case a meatless Friday is on your calendar. Cotes du Rhone, Grenache and light bodied Merlots are also good alternatives if you need something in a pinch. What is your favorite seafood and red wine pairing? Tweet me at @NinosWineExpert