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Wine Pairing: fish

Category: Wine Pairings

Wine Pairing: fish


In Short:
Consider the type of fish and the preparation method to pick the best wine for salmon, tuna or sea-bass - but if in doubt order champagne.

If you believe that one single type of white wine will do justice to the huge variety of seafood that is currently available, you might need to expand your pescatarian repertoire. With a little care and attention, great seafood can be accompanied by vibrant white wines, delicate rosé and even, in the right environment, a well chosen bottle of red. Whether it be tuna, sea bass, salmon or the comforting joys of a perfect fish pie, there are a surprising variety of bottles that will match your selection perfectly.

The first thing to consider is the type of fish in question and how its dominant characteristics would be best enhanced, rather than overwhelmed, by your choice of wine. If you’re going for a flaky plaice or sole, this is considered a lean fish. Medium texture is trout, seabass, haddock and cod. Salmon, tuna or swordfish are much meatier. At the top of the scale are the real heavy hitters flavorwise - the oily, fermented intensity of sardines, anchovies, herring and mackerel.

As important as the raw ingredients is how you are going to prepare the fish. Whether it be simply putting it under a grill or over a barbeque, right up to an elaborate concoction involving a sous vide machine and rich sauces, think about how the cooking methods affect the flavour of the final dish.

What wine to have with Salmon?
There’s a reason that salmon remains a failsafe option for everything from royal engagements to country weddings: it feels both luxurious and familiar at the same time. The best wines have enough complexity to pique your interest, stand up against whichever sauces are accompanying it and also complementary flavours. Try the Domaine Foucher Menetou Salon 2019, a refreshing favourite, whose real hits of gooseberry and grapefruit cut through.

What wine to have with tuna?
Tuna is a more robust cut compared to other fishy offerings: if you’ve ever seen the full size specimens at a market, you’ll marvel at how such a huge creature can be filleted so deftly. As such, tuna can cope with a strong rose or a lighter red: a Pinot Noir or a Beaujolais can make an ideal pairing.

What wine to have with Seabass?
Seabass has evolved from a restaurant rarity to a gastropub favourite and is now increasingly being cooked at home. A crisp unoaked white makes for a great match - think Chardonnay, Albarino, Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon Blanc. A pale rosé will pair wonderfully and if the seabass is prepared with soy or with other Chinese flavours, try Gruner Veltliner or dry Riesling.

What red wine goes with fish?
The rule might be white wine with fish: but much like many wine “rules”, it’s there to be broken - see above for our matches with tuna. If you consider the variety of sides that go with fish - vegetables, sauces, other flavourings like bacon - then you know that it can be paired with almost anything. It also underplays how subtle and delicate some red wines can be. Meaty fish and red wine can be a good match: try a Barbera or an Austrian Zweigelt.

In conclusion whether you are baking, frying, steaming or poaching, there is no limit to the types of wines that can be paired successfully with your favourite fish dish. Just remember to consider the type of fish, the method of preparation, the sauces and the accompanying side dishes. One final tip? If you’re having fish and chips to seriously consider putting a bottle of Nicolas Courtin Brut NV Champagne in the fridge. It’s nothing short of spectacular.