Red wine and a fish course to match - a problem or a treat? - I Blame The Wine

Red wine and a fish course to match – a problem or a treat?

I kick off this ‘What if it works’ section with something not particularly shocking, but still quite controversial and definitely one of the most talked about issues in matching food and wine. Will you serve red wine with fish courses?

After reading a few books on Mediterranean diet, I am increasingly interested in incorporating more of its elements into my daily routine – be it my lunch or dinner. It suggests that your top choice of a meal is fish – an oily example of it will be very beneficial for you, and knowing that here in the UK we do not get as much sun as in the South of France or Spain, we probably should be eating it even more frequently.

Yet what is the solution for us, red wine lovers?

I believe an answer lies in cracking that combination of what kind of fish (salty, neutral or even more sharp in flavours like seafood) to match with a particular red (which ones to pick?). I have read somewhere that there is no coincidence in the styles of wines and the national cuisines – think about how good is the match between some rustic lamb dish and Languedoc red or super Tuscan Chianti and simple Italian antipasti range of starters? These were developed together – fattiness matches the acidity and richness of one with the boldness of the other. Now we see that long coastal region of Spain and France (ok, further to Italy and Greece of course) – it is no surprise that all of these cuisines are full with fish recipes. Wines are all very different, but there are plenty of powerful reds, lighter and medium bodied as well. Hence I am hopeful for a good match here.

Coming back to taste ‘principles’ you can’t deny that there are some chemical reactions present whilst i.e. salt interacts with wine, or lemon (acid) changes the food slightly and also affects how we taste wine.  The first example with salt is proven to decrease bitterness, acidity and astringency in wine. The latter example with lemon will improve richness, fruitiness and sweetness in wine, whilst decreasing its acidity.

If we combine these things together we will get a profile of rather acidic wine, ranging from quite young ones (as we believe salty fish will improve on a possible astringency) to medium bodied ones. The question of full bodied wines will be answered by the particular fish – if your is a meaty, rich and somewhat buttery then why not?

Let’s move on to specific matches now.

The most obvious, even though not Mediterranean, choices for red wines that would match the above description are red Burgundy and Beaujolais wines – the styles are ranging from young (both of them) and more mature and complex Burgundian examples, so we are definitely to find a good match. Have it chilled and I am sure you will have a treat with your fish.

For something less obvious and more in line with ‘What if ?’ theme let’s move to a more southern French region of Cahors which is a motherland of Malbec grape (not Argentina actually). It is not unseen in the region to serve a buttery and herby trout with the local Malbec based wines. The wine will clearly be on the fuller side, with the younger batches to be ready for the local consumption as young unnamed wines and perfectly suitable for that dish. This is also suggested by Philippe Faure-Brac, a well known chef who advises to avoid woody and tannic reds, and according to him, young Merlot or round and unaged Syrah will go brilliantly with red mullet, whilst when thinking about more fishy flavours we can try good quality Bordeaux like Pessac Leognan.

What about thinking about a colder climate and matching a home cooked tomato fish stew and red wine? In my own quick and easy concoction I have added a wonderful selection of steamed fish and shellfish (haddock, plaice and some mussels) to a vegetable stew (think of onions, carrots, celery and tomatoes) enriched with olives. This aromatic addition of olives particularly matches to herby and round flavours of Syrah. That is my firm recommendation.

I cannot miss salmon in this review –  Evan Goldstein in his book ‘Perfect Pairings’ shows an example of oaky, smoky Pinot Noirs matched with salmon with soy and ginger. He adds that salmon and Pinot are delicious partners. It is interesting how Asian flavours match such a Burgundy classic, yet smoky character means the author wants us to source a New World Pinot. Try rich and bold Australian or spicier South African Pinot Noirs and let me know if you feel it is a good match!
Coming back to my previous comment on the regional food and wines, I cannot agree more with Joanna Simon, who also suggested to match octopus with herby spicy reds from Provence, Rioja or even Greece. Octopus is my firm favourite, I used to cooked in in so many variation (Spanish influence from my living there), and I really find it satisfying with a glass of Rioja Joven (a younger and unnamed style of this popular Spanish red). Try serving red wine with fish for yourself and share your experience!


About The Author


Dimitri is passionate about wines, food to go with it, happy & healthy lifestyle, digital marketing, start-ups and entrepreneurship. is about new organic wines in the UK, what to buy or avoid on the retailer shelves; tips on healthy and happy wine lifestyle, but also provides reviews and rankings for organic wines. Get in touch please, I am always on a lookout for new ideas and connections! Cheers.

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