How is seafood like Chardonnay? It takes on the character of its environs. Chardonnay on its own is a very mildly flavored light white wine but put it in oak and it can become a monster.
Seafood can be similar. On its own most seafood is really white wine fodder. You want to make the simplest of light dry white wines taste good? Pair it with a piece of poached fish.
Pair your light dry white with tuna or salmon though and it may very well be overwhelmed. Those two lend themselves to a heftier white wine, rose or even a light red. Not only are they a more flavorful fish but they have the heft and texture that conjures up a piece of red meat. So, of course, a red wine would work here also.
Among the more common red varietals most amenable to seafood are Pinot Noir, Gamay or Grenache. The little known Mencia from Spain would also work as well as everyone's favorite, Italian Valpolicella.
What if we go a step further? How about putting our fish in a tomato sauce with appropriate veggies making our meal more sweet and savory. Whenever tomato sauce is in the offing, think Italian. That's what they do so about half of the red wines available from Italy (the lighter half) would work here.
What if we rub some serious spices into that fish and then put it on the backyard grill? Now we're talking bigger red wine, perhaps a Bordeaux blend of Cabernet, Merlot and more. Something more substantial than the light reds but still not a heavy oaky red. If we're staying with the Italian theme, Chianti Classico might be nice.
You like oak? Then add some earthiness to the meal. Add some root vegetables, mushrooms or nuts to the meal. These elements along with the charcoal smokiness from the grill will nicely complement your oaky California red.
Two final points:
Lemon juice and vinegar are no-nos when matching wine and seafood. Unless you like a metallic aftertaste.
Sicily may be ground zero for complementing seafood with red wine. As luck would have it, we have two coming in next week!
Join us this Thursday at the After 5 Wine Tasting as David Hobbs presents Highway 12 Sonoma Sauvignon Blanc, Bench Sonoma Coast (!) Pinot Noir along with a nice Portuguese Vinho Verde and a stellar French Moulin a Vent. These four examples are part of an initial order of twelve wines from Dave's new portfolio. Please join us for the tasting!