The first rule of wine and food pairing, is to drink something you enjoy. The perfect pairing is in the eye of the beholder.
Certain types of wine can be excluded because they clash with fish and shellfish, but a wide range of wines go very well. Heavier styles of wine match better with richer dishes.
Wines to avoid
Avoid tannic grape varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Nebbiolo. Tannins cause puckering and drying of the mouth, and they react with iodine in marine fish and shellfish to produce a metallic taste. This spoils the food and the wine.
Red wines which can work
Some red grape varieties have low tannin levels, and some wines are made in a way which extracts little tannin from the grapes. Good acidity also helps to match with shellfish, and to cut through rich sauces. Some red wines which do work:-
- Beaujolais. Made from Gamay grapes, and most have low tannin levels.
- Pinot Noir. Particularly lighter styles of Burgundy.
- Rioja. Lighter styles made for early drinking work well.
- Cabernet Franc. The main source is the Loire in France.
A whole swathe of dry white wines with good acidity go really well with shellfish. Here are some suggestions:-
- Riesling. A great grape variety, but choosing Riesling needs care, as styles vary from the bone-dry to the lush, rich and sweet.
- Chardonnay. A racy Chablis for the shellfish. An oaked wine for the rich sauces.
- Sauvignon Blanc. Whichever style you enjoy.
- Albariño. A grape variety grown near Spain’s Atlantic coast. It is just made to go with the local fish and shellfish.
- Picpoul de Pinet. From the Mediterranean coast of France – just right for the local seafood.
Rosé wines come in a wide variety of styles. Match them in the same way you would white wines.
Sparkling wines, and the dry styles of sherry go well too.
The choice is your’s, but do try unfamiliar wines, as there is always a better one around the corner.