Red Wine with Fish?

A food and wine pairing that breaks the rules

I recently led a wine training session to a restaurant team, most of whom were young and had formal qualification in hospitality. Before I started, I asked each of them to write down what they knew about wine. I was very happy to see that everyone had more than a basic knowledge of wine—a good start. Almost everyone told me that red wine must go with meat and white wine with fish. Eek!

This is one of the most common misconceptions around. Although in general, light and medium white wines tend to go with white fish, however, it is not always the case that white wine goes with fish or that red wine has to go with meat. It all depends on many factors.

When pairing food and wine, we need to start with the main objective of why we are pairing the two, so that the experience of having both together is better than having them separately or, in other words, they enhance each other. For this, we need to first look at the ‘weight’ of both the food and the wine, and I don’t mean putting them on a scale. A light wine, red or white, is likely to pair better with light food, let’s say a pinot gris with a green salad. White wine, if you pair it with a heavy dish, like a lamb roast, which is rather heavy, then the food will overpower and likely kill the wine. Likewise, a heavy wine, let’s say a shiraz from Barossa, paired with a green salad would kill the dish.

Once the ‘weight’ is right, we should aim to have a dish and a wine that either are similar or in contrast. Wine flavors come from specific components: sugar, acid, fruit, tannin and alcohol level. Different dishes also have flavor components: fat, acid, salt, sugar, umami and bitter. The best food and wine pairings feature complementary components, weight and textures

For example, a grilled steak will be ideally paired with a heavy and tannic wine like a cabernet sauvignon, a malbec or an aged tempranillo. As the fat and umami (protein) on the steak will balance the tannins of the wine. A lobster thermidor goes well with an oaked chardonnay, where the buttery flavors of the chardonnay match those of the creamy sauce served with the lobster.

However, sauces are usually the forgotten element of pairing when it should actually be a priority because it can change not only the taste of the dish, but also the weight. For example, one of my crazy pairings—to which I have won many bets against food and wine experts—is pairing tuna with a Crianza Rioja aged for two years or more. If you serve the tuna raw with a marinade of soya sauce and wasabi, (which is one of my favorite dishes) a nice aged red rioja pairs fantastically with it. And so, here we have fish with red wine.

BIO: Alfredo de la Casa has been organizing wine tastings for over 20 years and has published three wine books, including the Gourmand award winner for best wine education book. You can reach him at www.wineinvietnam.com.

Share this story, choose your platform!

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on pinterest
Share on tumblr
Share on google
Share on linkedin
Share on reddit
Share on vk
Share on email
About the author:

Leave a Comment

Eat More Vegetables

Exploring Vietnam’s best vegetarian ingredients For many, Vietnam is a paradise for vegetarians of all kinds. Restaurants roll out a vegetarian menu for the first and 15th of every month for those looking for a bit of soul purification. Home cooks revel in a huge assortment of fruits and vegetables, changing with the season. And

Read More »

A Good Rose Is Good

Rosé rules. There are no ifs, ands, or buts about it. Rosé wines are some of the most undervalued wines in the world. There are no particular reasons for this other than perhaps ignorance and misunderstanding them. In Asia, rosé wines are considered bad because “they are made from the bad red and white wines

Read More »

Chinese Comfort Food

Longstanding establishment Café Central opens a new location in District 5 Among Saigon’s most prominent food & beverage groups, WMC has long been known for its range of restaurant styles and signature menus that are always designed to appeal to broad tastes in dining. This year, the group has launched its latest venue by returning

Read More »

Staying In Is The New Going Out

ONHA.VN brings you the Paragon of Restaurants into your home, backed by high-end technology and culinary talents. Speed POS is a payment transactions and inventory software & hardware provider, as well as training center, servicing F&B, Retail and Hotels. First and foremost, Speed POS has become a household name within the world of restaurants, fast

Read More »

Great Australian Wines delivered to your doorstep

We’re all stuck at home. Why not enjoy Australian Wines delivered right to your doorstep? Rada Vietnam (ilovewines.vn) offers a great selection of White, Red & Rose wines with huge discounts. Premium labels include Kilikanoon (Clare Valley), Mount Pleasant (Hunter Valley), Evans & Tate (Margaret River), Wines by Geoff Hardy (McLaren Vale), Paxton Wines (McLaren

Read More »

Healthy Chickens Means Happy Diners

Chickita is farm-to-table, Asian inspired, flame-grilled chicken Rising incomes and savvy, educated consumers have helped revolutionize the food industry around the world and Vietnam is a good case in point. Fast food, sugary and processed snacks are fun and yes, fast, but cultural awareness of nutrition is on the rise. Healthy eating trends are seeing

Read More »