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Wine pairing with smoked fish?

I'm no sommelier, and I'm not an expert at wine pairings, but I know the basics and am usually pretty successful. However, I found a truly disastrous one a couple of weeks ago. My mom was visiting the weekend before Mother's Day, so I decided I would make her a proper Mother's Day dinner that Sunday with some of the ingredients we had picked up over the course of the weekend as I showed her around all of my favorite haunts in town. We had asparagus with lemon butter, ramp risotto, and grilled lobster tails. All of this worked really nicely with a riesling I had picked out - that's not the problem. The problem was that we had picked up some smoked fish, and decided to make it our first course. Then we both got busy cooking and grilling and didn't get around to HAVING the first course, so we just put it out on the table with our dinner.

BOY did that fish hate that wine. We're talking Hatfield/McCoy level animosity.

But I'm starting to think it might hate any wine...this isn't a thinly sliced cold-smoked salmon...this is a lake trout with a 2-pack-a-day habit. Wonderful stuff, but you're tasting smoke for hours. For future reference, is there a wine that would work with this, or do I just throw in the towel and do beer or very cold vodka the next time? Either one of which is fine by me, but I figured I'd give the wine 'hounds a crack at it first.

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  1. Vodka or Aquavit would be nice, so would a pale ale. You are right.
    If there is a fair amount of salt also, I would go with something sparkling. Nothing fancy, an inexpensive cava might be nice.
    You might also try a Bandol Rose. Dry with touches of pepper that might play nicely with the smoke.
    Or, you could go the other direction for an oaky chardonnay. That richness would stand up to the smoke and the lushness of the meat.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Aaron

      I wondered if cava might work, or rose. The smoke seems to kill the fruit, so something bubbly and/or with a good dose of acidity might do it. Hadn't thought of the oaky chard - I do love those, and that might be enough to break through.

      Sherry is an interesting suggestion - not on my radar at all.

      Might have to buy more of this stuff and have a tasting...take this beyond the realm of intellectual exercise...

    2. If the smoke factor is really that high it could hold up to a light red - - an earthy style (ie: not from California) Pinot Noir could work. But my 1st choice would be a Rose' as the previous poster noted.

      1. Try fino or amontillado sherry.

        1 Reply
        1. I would say anything with tannins or oak is out. I would have guessed riesling would have worked. Which riesling was it?
          Rose, sparkling wine or an unoaked, light red might work.

            1. re: Brad Ballinger

              My experience would attest to an OR Pinot Noir.

            2. A champagne or sparkling wine (blanc de blancs).

              1. Rose Champagne would be my first choice. An oaky CA Chard *might* also work if you like that style.

                1. Interesting sidebar to some subscription-only tasting notes of Greek wines by local wine guru Michel Phaneuf:

                  "Ce curieux procédé donne un goût singulier de sapinage qui peut évoquer les remèdes de grand-mère et désorienter les palais non avertis. Malgré tout, cette originalité témoigne d’une longue tradition viticole et se distingue encore par sa personnalité unique et sa fraîcheur, deux atouts indéniables à une époque où tant de vins sortent du même moule. Pour apprécier la Retsina à sa juste valeur, il est préférable de la boire très fraîche à l’apéritif, en accompagnement des spécialités grecques ou – pourquoi pas! – de saumon fumé."

                  [This odd procedure (adding pine resin) gives the wine a strange piney flavour that can bring grandmothers' remedies to mind and confuse inexperienced palates. And yet this original product comes from a long winemaking tradition and continues to stand out due to its unique personality and freshness, two undeniable advantages in an age when so many wines are made from the same mould. To appreciate the true worth of Retsina, it's best to drink it very well chilled as a aperitif, as an accompaniment to Greek specialities or -- why not -- with smoked salmon.]

                  Don't know that I'll be rushing out and buying a bottle to give the pairing a try, but I can see how it might work.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: carswell

                    A dry Gewurztraminer from Alsace should pair well. Alaskan Smoked Porter will be an excellent pairing also..