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Top tipples to perfectly match a fish dish

simple guide to pairing wines with oysters, salmon, turbot and more

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07 OCTOBER 2009

White wines for fish and reds for meat? It’s an old adage that holds water but really shouldn’t be strictly adhered to. There are some good reasons to avoid red wine with fish, primarily due to the tannins that are extracted from the red skins during fermentation.

These give you the feel of that mouth-watering dryness in a red. Tannins react badly with the phosphates found in fish and result in a metallic taste. That said some reds are much lower in tannins.

The grape responsible for red Burgundies, Pinot Noir, is particularly thin skinned thus slighter in tannins and also higher in acidity. The acid cuts beautifully through the oiliness of a fried fillet of salmon and the red fruits compliment the sweet pink flesh.

Try putting a bottle of Long Trek Pinot Noir 2008 from New Zealand’s Central Otago (£12.49 Majestic) in the fridge 45 minutes before serving and have them strawberries and cherries bouncing out the glass.

Germany has, quite possibly, the most poorly marketed wines of the world and is often still the butt of many wine jokes. The Blue Nuns and Black Towers of this country seem to be Britain’s prevailing memory of Germany’s offerings. This wine should, however, serve as a reminder that Germanic wines can be some of the best on the planet.

Dr L Reisling 2008, Mosel, Germany (£7.99, Oddbins) is made by a process that harvests the grapes later with higher sugar content. This makes the wine off-dry (a little sweet) with a low alcohol level.

Now I know that the thought of a slightly sweet German wine is enough to have you reaching for the nearest inoffensive Pinot Grigio, but this one will turn you. The racing acidity of the grape zips through the sweetness giving honeyed apricots and intense aromatics with lots of flint stone on the finish. Try this with a meaty textured hunk of poached turbot in a rich creamy sauce. The fresh ‘zippy’ character of the wine will slice through that richness and the weighty unctuousness will match up to the heavy texture.

Truly one of the all time great matches has to be oysters with Sancerre. Sancerre is located in the east of the Loire Valley, Central France and is only permitted to use the Sauvignon Blanc grape in production of its whites.

The Sancerre Pierre Blanche 2008 Fouassier (£10.99 Majestic) is a superb example. Plenty of lemon and green apples but much more restrained and subtle than many New World Sauv-Blancs. Mouth watering acidity with gorgeous mineral finish. It’s that mineral quality that works so well with oysters.

Try with uber mineral-rich Loch Fyne rock oysters, available to take away from any of the Restaurants borrowing the same name. Forego the squeeze of lemon and let the Sancerre do its magic, washing down the sea breeze-like shellfish with a citrus seasoning.

So on to discoveries new. Torrontes is Argentina’s most popular white grape. So in love are they with this particular variety that you can find it in everything from jam to ice cream within the country.

TerrunoTorrontes (Cavas de Gaucho, W1B 4DJ £7.95) is a great example of the variety. Powerfully aromatic with oodles of lychee and elderflower, it’s deceptively sweet on the nose. Once in the mouth it’s bitingly crisp and fresh with hints of the floral aromatics coming through.

Try this with a traditional Argentine fish dish, ceviche, a fresh fish dish that is cured using only the acids from lemons and limes. Traditionally served with red onion, chili and coriander, the aromatic and citrus qualities of the wine serve brilliantly leaving the freshness to tame the spice of the chilli.

Jake Crimmin is Somelier at Gaucho, Charlotte Street.

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