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Jan 25, 2010 01:31 AM

Red Wine with Seafood?

When do you prefer to use red wine (or drink it) with seafood dishes?
Which red wines do you like with which seafood?
Just curious!


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  1. Only with salmon, grilled...
    a light red, sometimes.

    Mussels? Belgian beer.

    1. Oe of jfood's favorite restaurants served a salmon cooked in parchment and a red wine sauce. It was outstanding.

      1. Personally, I drink red wine with every food, however much of a sacrilege this might be for wine conoisseurs...I don't like white wine and I don't particularly believe in wine-food pairing. In my view, if you love the wine and love the food, then they'll go together just fine...

        For me, it's got to be a rich, fruity, full-bodied red. My favourites are Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon and Tannat.

        22 Replies
        1. re: Paula76

          I agree... if you don't like the wine to begin with, the food is not likely to make it taste any better. Drink what you like, eat what you like.
          Crabcakes are great with Malbec. (mmm... now I'm hungry!)

          1. re: iluvcookies

            <<if you don't like the wine to begin with, the food is not likely to make it taste any better.>>

            Paula 76 and iluvcookies, you're missing out on one of the most beneficial and beautiful things about food and wine pairing -- that it can make an average or inexpensive or even flawed bottle of wine, taste much, much better.

            So many wines with minor or even moderate flaws become remarkably better with food because the food nearly always smooths out the wine's flaws. So often in wine-tasting, I will hear (and say myself), "This wine needs food." Tiny imperfections in the wine then become unnoticeable.

            For larger flaws, there's a whole "category" of pairing that deals with these. Not too long ago, I was tasting a few great bottles at a restaurant, and a friend joined me. He brought a favorite bottle of wine that he drinks frequently -- a good bottle but in comparison with the others, not as good and surprisingly bitter. I ordered a side dish of braised radicchio -- itself inherently bitter. The radicchio and my friend's wine were *amazing* together -- the wine was no longer bitter, because the bitterness was associated with the radicchio, which is supposed to be bitter. And this pairing was better than the same dish with any of my "better" wines.

            Here's another familiar flaw, and a scenario well-known to wine lovers: You've been aging a great red wine, think it might be ready for drinking and open it...but it isn't. The wine has smoky char from the oak that needs more time to become integrated into the wine and disappear -- a disappointment. But when you pair that wine with a food that has its own smoky char, like charcoal-grilled steak or vegetables, the smoky char in the wine dissolves completely into the desirable smoky charred flavor of the grilled foods.

            And so on. If a wine has a bite to it, if it's too harsh, too astringent, too acidic, drink it with food, especially food with some fat. It's magic -- the wine truly becomes better. On the other hand, if the food isnt up to snuff, the wine can adjust it. If, for example, a dish is dull and needs brightness, pair it with a lively wine with lots of acid -- it will make the food come alive.

            Obviously, this is all a synergistic thing, and the reason that "drink what you want with what you want to eat" is such a limited concept.

            So, drink wine with food. The wine will become better, and you'll have more fun anyway.

            Beyond that, you don't need to know a lot of rules for pairing. Just try to match the intensity of the flavor of the food with the intensity of the flavor of the wine. That's the first and best pairing rule anyway, and the one that's the basis for the white-wine-with-fish and red-wine-with-beef rule maxim. That single rule will take you far.

            1. re: maria lorraine

              Flavor amplification is another reason for food and wine pairing. Match a flavor in the food with a flavor in the wine and 1+1 equals not 2, but 4 or 8. Fun.

              1. re: maria lorraine

                You have a valid point... I just personally would rather take a wine I like (there are many) and then pair it with food. Is this limiting? Perhaps. But when I go to wine tastings I try the wine alone. If I like it then I buy some.

                If the OP isn't a fan of white (are you alkapal?), then why not try a red she likes with a dish she likes?

                1. re: iluvcookies

                  oh, i'm a fan of just about any wine. ;-)).

                  i was just curious about where other hounds use reds with seafood. the only red with seafood i've had, iirc, is a seared salmon with a cabernet sauce (not good to me), and seafood stews with fortified wines (love seafood stews!).

                  maria lorraine, you have some good points about pairing.

                  1. re: alkapal

                    Maria has some awesome ideas on wines and food from time to time, I have noticed.

                      1. re: Tripeler

                        That is correct, but I would go a few degrees further - I find that she has great recs. all of the time, but that is just my palate.

                        I can only think of one rec., or something, that I disagreed with, but that was so long ago, that I would easily say that "she won!"


                      2. re: alkapal

                        Nice write, Maria.
                        I use a red w/ cipino, bouillabaisse, or red clam zuppa and in Portuguese tomato seafood seafood dishes.

              2. re: Paula76

                While I agree that it's truly to each their own, there are certain wines and foods that will just not work together. Due to the chemical compositions of each, some pairings may even ruin the meal.

                For example, over Thanksgiving, people often want to break out that First Growth Red Bordeaux to go with the Turkey. That will end up making the Turkey taste like metal - I don't care how much you like food, eating something that tastes like it was marinated in a steel hubcap just will not be enjoyably to most people.

                Another hard pairing because of chemical reactions is Artichokes. Artichokes contain cynarin, a substance that changes the flavor of wine and makes wine taste sweet. This is fine if you are not bringing out that $150 bottle of Extra Brut champagne - and expecting it to still taste dry...

                So by all means, eat and drink whatever you like, but know that somethings just don't work together - unless of course you're also a fan of Choclate Ice Cream with Bologna - or are pregnant.

                1. re: Paula76

                  I'm with you Paula76. The big problem I've found with white wines is that they're almost always served cold, which makes them easier to drink, which means that you drink more in a short period of time, which is not good! I've been just about 100% red wine for the past 10 years. I love a nice Cote du Rhone with mild fish and Zins, Cabs, Malbec and Chianti with heavier fish. Of course, I'll always make an exception for a good Champagne!!!!

                  1. re: bucksguy14

                    "The big problem I've found with white wines is that they're almost always served cold . . ."
                    Does this occur when you serve white wine at home as well?

                    1. re: Chinon00

                      No, it doesn't. I serve whites chilled, not cold. But then, there rarely are any white wines in our home!

                      1. re: bucksguy14

                        Well one would hope that the primary reason one would avoid any product wouldn't be it's serving temperature in a restaurant but rather be due to something more at it's character. I agree with you about many wines being served too cold at restaurants (I'm assuming you are talking about experiences at restaurants) and I also think that many places serve pasta overcooked. If I enjoyed them I wouldn't however religiously avoid both on that basis I would instead restrict myself to ordering them
                        at places that I know get it right.

                        1. re: Chinon00

                          Like most people, when I started drinking wine, it was white. That was many years ago. Over those years, I've come to prefer reds. I'd bet I don't drink 10 glasses of white wine in a year's time. That being said, yes most of the restaurants do serve white very cold, which I think causes people to consume more than they would were it not so cold. I agree with you on the overcooked pasta and, I would add overcooked fish to that category as well. You can always ask them to "undercook" your pasta. I do that with any fish I order and it generally comes to me somewhere about medium-well, which is OK, even though I cook it medium at home! As I've mentioned on a few board where folks were in disagreement with me, my father told me a long time ago that Breyer's made chocolate AND vanilla because nobody agrees with everybody!

                          1. re: bucksguy14

                            I find it unfortunate that a person who enjoys wine would only drink ten glasses of white a year. That statement implies to me that you consider "white wine" to be one thing. Maybe you consider red wine to be one thing as well. I've shared this story before and I think that I'll share it again. I worked at a wine store a few years ago where we did daily tasting. A customer whom I'd noticed from the past approached eager to taste and the whites inparticular. After sampling he said "ya know I used to never drink white wine but recently I've really started to appreciate it". One of our senior representives responded "that's because your palate is becoming more focused". Listen enjoy your reds to your heart's content, but try and always keep an open mind.

                            1. re: bucksguy14

                              I probably appreciate more reds, than I do whites, but that does not direct me with regards to food/wine pairings. I go with whatever will fit best, be it white, pink, red, or an off-shade of amber. It is about the pairing, and not the color of the wine.

                              When a pairing works, the diners never notice the color of the wines. I have introduced many to Rosés, when the said that they'd never drink a pink wine.

                              Maybe go up to Maria Lorraine's comments, and give them a try with the proper dishes. You might be mightily surprised.

                              Also, I have also found that most restaurants in the US do serve their whites too cold. I almost always have the bottle placed on the table, and will resort to using my hands on that first glass, to warm it up. Had to stop a server in the UAL RCC at LAX recently, as he was about to pour our "premium" white into a chilled glass! NO!!!!! Please give me THAT glass, and do not serve that wine in a frozen glass.

                              My Montrachets are usually at, or slightly above, my cellar temp.

                              Enjoy, and do not fear white wines. There are some excellent ones around, and many are fabulous with seafood.


                        2. re: Chinon00

                          imho most Americans serve white wines too cold and red wines too warm.

                          When a restaurant brings a bottle of icy cold white. wrap your hands around the glass a couple of minutes, and then let the wine sit for another couple of minutes. It's amazing how quickly the chill comes off and the wine opens up and tastes better.

                          Bucksguy, I'm curious what "heavier" fish you think go well with Zinfandel? As much as I love a good Zin, I can't imagine it complementing any fish.

                          1. re: ChefJune

                            «As much as I love a good Zin, I can't imagine it complementing any fish.»

                            Tend to agree though the increasingly rare supple style of Zin is the best pairing I've found for blackened snapper. And, of course, it's the classic match (which doesn't necessarily mean the best match) with cioppino.

                            1. re: carswell

                              is the cioppino-zin "classic" connection due to their relatively contemporaneous development in the northern california scene (cioppino --1800s san francisco and gold rush-era importation of zinfandel vines)? in any event, it is a natural flavor pairing -- each one's heartiness seems to match that of the other; and the zin is not overly tannic, complementing the fruit and acidity of cioppino's tomato component.

                              i adore cioppino, especially served with fresh pappardelle.

                              1. re: alkapal

                                Disclaimer: I read a rather long passage on the cioppino-zin connection a while back but I'll be damned if I can track it down. (Maybe in *Angels' Visits*, the first edition of *Zin: the History and Mystery of Zinfandel*, which I don't have a copy of?) So working from distant memory here.

                                IIRC the dish as we know it today dates from post-Gold Rush era, more like the late 1800s or early 1900s. Many versions were made with red or white wine. If the wine was red, it was likely to be a Zin or a field blend, and lighter and more rustic than most modern-day Zins, since that was the Italian fishermen's preferred plonk. So, yes, the connection is cultural/historical but also gastronomic (serve the same wine that you use in the dish).

                            2. re: ChefJune

                              I'll agree with carswell on the cioppino. I also like it with grilled tuna and swordfish. And, finally, I like it with mussels in a spicy tomato sauce. I'm sure people will disagree with me on some, if not all, of those choices. All that really means is that I probably disagree with their choices for those dishes. But, in the end, it's all about what each of enjoys, regardless of the likes of others. If that weren't true, menus and wine lists would be much shorter!

                      2. as long as it has some brightness to it it's ok. i find merlots, for example, are too flat on the tongue and don't work w/ fish. a tempranillo or a pinot noir can work very well

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: thew

                          Aside from any "flatness," I find that too many go heavily "metallic," with seafood.


                        2. Unlike some suggestions, red wine is not only good with salmon. It depends as much on the way the fish is cooked or if it has a specific flavor profile in a sauce as it does on the type of seafood as to whether to drink or cook with a red.

                          True, a simple grilled salmon will hold up well to a Pinot Noir (and a red wine reduction). But I make a Red Snapper Veracruzano with a tomato-based sauce that includes olives and capers and a splash of red wine. A white wine just does not pair well with this. In addition If there is some heat in the sauce or a spicy rub, like a spicy grilled shrimp with Chipotle sauce you could drink a fruity Red Zinfandel to offset the spice.

                          So it's really more about the preparation than the fish itself. But then the fish will often dictate the preparation. For example, I tend to put butter-based sauces on seared scallops because they are a rich seafood. So a buttery wine, like a good Chardonnay, would be my first choice to drink. And if my sauce is a buerre blanc, it will have some white wine in it. And I'd never put a red sauce or spice on a light fish like Dover Sole. So with that, I'd always drink a light, crisp white.

                          Hope this was helpful. Go crazy with wine - mix it up!

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: Whoopingcrane

                            My wine guy always points out that the protein may not be the part of the meal that most impacts your wine choice, especially in touchy areas like red fish or turkey. So on Thanksgiving, pair the wine with the stuffing, not the bird.

                            I use different sauces with roast pork, some fruity, some spicy. I pair the wine with the sauce.

                            But to the original question? Personally? Pinot noir with salmon. Always.

                            1. re: Whoopingcrane

                              The wine <<<really more about the preparation than the fish itself.>>

                              That's it.

                              Salmon provides the perfect example of how preparation determines the pairing.
                              Here's a progression of preps that illustrates increasing intensity and the need
                              for a wine with increasing intensity:

                              Poached salmon with leeks, like that for a Sunday brunch =
                              white wine, Champagne.

                              Roasted salmon, perhaps with orange and fennel. The roasting concentrates and intensifies the flavors, other ingredients provide additional oomph =
                              Rose Champagne, Rose, very light reds.

                              Grilled salmon, even more concentration, addition of smoke and char = takes the dish into the "red zone" of Burgundy and New World Pinot Noir. But Pinot-as-Syrah and anything heavier is too intense and will overwhelm the dish (you won't taste it).

                              Related threads on red wine with fish/seafood with more examples:
                              Red Wine with Lobster

                              Wine with maple-rum glazed salmon

                              P.S.: That Red Snapper Veracruzano with the tomatoes, olives and capers sounds tasty.
                              Would you please share your recipe?