5 Red Wines for Fish

5 Red Wines to Pair with Fish & Seafood


You've heard the inherited wisdom: "Drink only white wine with seafood." As with most of the basic guidelines for wine pairing, it's well-intentioned, a useful way to break down the options for what to drink with dinner. But once you understand the reasoning behind it, you can move beyond it with confidence, and reap the rewards.

Why you should break it: The field of available, delicious red wine is so large and diverse now that very few blanket rules can effectively apply. If you're looking to match your seafood with something fruity or light-bodied, higher-acid or even sparkling, well -- there's a red for that.

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There's plenty of useful wisdom built into this particular rule. For one, it's meant to stop the pairing of lighter-bodied wines with heavy, over-powering foods. It's also born of the idea that the high tannins and low acidity of some red wines make a very poor (and often grossly metallic) match for the oils found in plenty of seafood dishes. The rule even picked up a bit of scientific evidence last year, when a team of Japanese researchers discovered that the high iron content of red wine exacerbates the 'fishy' aftertaste of scallops.

Knowing the background to the rule, however, just gives you all the more ammo to break through it. Here are some reds to test out at your next seafood supper:

An elegant, lighter-bodied Pinot Noir is a great call for simple grilled or baked salmon. This is a perfect opportunity to go with another pairing guideline -- matching the wine's region to the food's origin -- and open an Oregon Pinot with something fresh-caught in the Pacific Northwest.

Two to try:

2006 Winter's Hill Pinot Noir

2006 Maison Champy Bourgogne Rouge

With refreshing acidity, complex fruit-and-earth notes, and very soft tannins, Barbera is an excellent match for tuna's rich, meaty flesh. Throw it on the grill alongside well-oiled veggies.

Two to try:

2004 Flavio Roddolo Barbera d'Alba

2007 Bazzini Barbera

Serve it up with skate -- the relatively meaty, mild-flavored flesh comes alive with a medium-bodied, slightly black pepper-inflected Syrah.

Two to try:

2006 Chave Offerus St. Joseph

2007 Cline

Here's another good opportunity to consider the wine's region, and then eat like a local (or vice versa). The next time you try your hand at paella, go straight for a lighter-bodied Rioja.

Two to try:

2003 R. Lopez de Heredia Cubillo

1999 Miguel Merino Rioja Gran Reserva

Light-bodied and full of sprightly fruit, Beaujolais is typically a very food-friendly selection, and a great way to entice white wine loyalists to cross to the dark(er) side. Give it a chill and serve it outdoors with rich, well-peppered tuna or wild salmon.

Two to try:

2003 Coudert Fleurie Clos de la Roilette

2007 Cheateau de Pizay Beaujolais

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  • Snooth User: solomania9
    Founding Member Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    6331 2,962

    Love this article - especially the scientific angle on why some reds are bad with fish. I've made the mistake of eating sushi and a tannic fruit bomb - and metallic (not to mention godawful) was exactly how it tasted. Will try a pinot next time.

    May 03, 2010 at 12:08 PM

  • Snooth User: Diderot
    104965 104

    I have tried these wines with fish and seafood. I would also recommend Zinfandel with salmon poached with ZInnfandel and blackberries, then topped with toasted almonds.

    May 03, 2010 at 12:47 PM

  • Snooth User: amour
    Hand of Snooth
    218530 2,203

    Would second Zinfandel with poached salmon as I did have salmon with St.Francis ZINFANDEL and it was a joy!

    May 03, 2010 at 1:38 PM

  • Snooth User: schellbe
    Hand of Snooth
    247770 225

    It seems that the proper phrase you wish to rebut is "drink only white wine with seafood". Then, the fact that there are many delicious reds offers support for the idea that one should try reds with seafood.

    In fact the phrase "only drink white wine with seafood" would be supported by the burgeoning collection of reds. Since so many good reds would be available for chicken, pork, ham etc., there would be no need to resort to whites except for a small subset of foods.

    In fact, this latter message is not the one you wanted to give us, as we may enjoy whites with many foods other than fish. This is true, even though the red wine selection is quite good.

    On a lighter note, I enjoy a lighter Burgundy with scallops and a diced tomato and basil sauce.

    May 03, 2010 at 1:49 PM

  • Snooth User: Carly Wray
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    196958 864

    @schellbe, a very insightful catch, indeed. I've gone back and reversed the words.

    May 03, 2010 at 2:03 PM

  • Snooth User: amour
    Hand of Snooth
    218530 2,203

    Friends of mine recently served VALPOLICELLA with dark flesh tuna and everyone enjoyed it...I had a taste but since I do not enjoy the Veneto/Italy wines...this was not my cup of tea!...glass of wine...I mean.
    However, consider how good Valpolicella could be with seafood , given its fruity flavour and medium -weight. It is in fact a good match after all.
    I must add, though, that even though many efforts are in the works to improve wines in Veneto, their wines have been quite thin and acidic in several cases....due to overplanting and other problems.
    Thank you.

    May 03, 2010 at 2:13 PM

  • Red wines are fine with most seafood, depending on your personal taste, and how the fish is seasoned and cooked. But reds do not go well with most shellfish; that combination can produce unpleasant tastes, with the exception of shellfish prepared in a tomato-based sauce: the chemistry there works.

    May 03, 2010 at 2:24 PM

  • Snooth User: amour
    Hand of Snooth
    218530 2,203

    Good point.

    May 03, 2010 at 2:50 PM

  • Snooth User: rfabbre
    303627 7

    Great article and I could not agree more. I love pairing light reds with some heartier seafoods. I would add Primitivo to your list of reds that work well.

    May 03, 2010 at 4:06 PM

  • i'm guilty of drinking a good Merlot with lots of seafood in addition to classic meat dishes...i'm experimenting, and it's quite enjoyable.

    May 03, 2010 at 4:08 PM

  • Snooth User: flintwich
    470580 2

    You don't mention serving temperature. Once had a chilled Loire Valley red with southern French seafood. Fantastic.

    May 03, 2010 at 4:35 PM

  • Snooth User: flintwich
    470580 2

    You don't mention serving temperature. Once had a chilled Loire Valley red with southern French seafood. Fantastic.

    May 03, 2010 at 4:36 PM

  • Snooth User: Diderot
    104965 104

    schellbe- Burgundy with scallops and a diced tomato and basil sauce sounds really good! Three hours till dinner - Rats!

    May 03, 2010 at 4:45 PM

  • Snooth User: dvogel001
    442684 8

    It is more important to determine your wine pairing with the preparation of the fish (or anything else) rather than the fact that the primary ingredient is fish. Are you cooking it savory, spicy, hearty or light, what is the seasoning, citrus, tomato, herbs...

    A citrus preparation would lean towards a white, other than that a red would be preferable.

    Think beyond the fish. What I do is taste the sauce and then decide the wine...

    May 03, 2010 at 6:13 PM

  • Snooth User: Shuffles
    453703 1

    I second the comment by flintwich. Just the other night I had Halibut with Chinon, it paired beautifully.

    May 03, 2010 at 7:43 PM

  • Snooth User: outthere
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    324443 4,177

    We had a Pax Syrah with some spicy Crab Cioppino a month or so back and it paired excellent. Good catch on the tomato based sauce and spiciness going well with a fuller bodied red.

    May 03, 2010 at 10:28 PM

  • Snooth User: JPBC
    209763 7

    Flintwich and Shuffles are right: Loire reds, slightly chilled, are marvelous companions to seafood.

    May 04, 2010 at 12:05 AM

  • Snooth User: nobsesa
    440117 5

    My choice would be a delicious Kalterersee from a small winegrower in South Tyrol ---> andisoelva.com

    May 04, 2010 at 2:50 AM

  • Pardon me for being conservative but I would generally avoid reds with fishes unless there is specifically a good reason to match them.
    I am often amazed by people drinking white wine with steak and reds with fish and would certainly recommend sake rather than red with sushi every time.
    Guess that makes me the party pooper today!

    May 04, 2010 at 5:47 AM

  • As for shellfish, manzanilla, sake, muscadet sur lie, picpoul de pinet, bright, tart seaside whites.

    May 04, 2010 at 5:49 AM

  • Snooth User: Mike 1526
    471214 1

    I agree with many of the sentiments expressed here. A chilled red Loire valley goes extremely well with most seafood dishes, however nothing can beat a Montrachet Chassagne for freshly caught Dover Sole or Sea Bass,
    Mike in Edinburgh,Scotland

    May 04, 2010 at 1:28 PM

  • Snooth User: BG422
    343567 19

    Absent an intensely seasoned and rich meat dish there are not a lot of things that do not go well with Barbera -- a very versatile wine

    May 04, 2010 at 8:28 PM

  • Snooth User: dmcker
    Hand of Snooth
    125836 4,942

    There's quite a bit more detail in this thread from several months ago on redwine and fish matches
    in the Snooth Forum. Perhaps discussion can shift to there so that these comments will continue to live and spur discussion, rather than die as almost always happens after a few days with the articles...

    May 05, 2010 at 2:11 AM

  • Snooth User: vinacasamarin
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    449611 14

    We should forget the fact that we can only drink white wine with seafood. There are so many red wines that you can combine with seafood, like the wines from burgundy. Last year we made a new style of Pinot Noir, from which just 20% was oaked in french barrels for aprox. 5 months. It is a fruty style of Pinot Noir, to be served chilled at a temperature of 10-12C and excellent to accompany with fish! For tasting notes and other facts about this wine check out the following link.


    May 05, 2010 at 5:39 PM

  • I was always telling people "use white wine with fish (unless the preparation of the fish might call for it, i.e.something hearty prepared with tomato such as cioppino). A family member was making freshly caught trout which we would put in foil with white wine, onions, lemon slices on top of the fish, some seasoning, wrap it and put on the grill. We didn't have enough white and I about screamed when he started to use red wine in the foil packet (probably a cab or syrah!). Surprise - it actually tasted fine. Who would have thought with such a delicate fish as lake trout?

    May 06, 2010 at 5:12 PM

  • Pinot Noir D'Alsace chilled, goes well with beef despite its lack of tannins, but it also suited cold salmon and rare steaks of tuna.
    Quite a versatile wine and deep pink in appearance

    May 11, 2010 at 6:33 AM

  • Still bothered by this thread. The capacity of fish to cope with red wine will greatly depend on (a) the sauce that goes with it (b) the preparation of it eg grilled, fried, poached etc and (c) the colour and richness of the fish - ie how meaty it is. Unless you have tried the combination with a red, potential pitfalls seem too numerous to risk, say a Saint Emilion Grand Cru with a baked bream, when a good white burgundy would be a match made in heaven. Ultimately pairing reds and fish is best done by copying european locals or taking a wine expert along for lunch (IMHO).

    May 13, 2010 at 5:42 AM

  • Snooth User: ckscates
    482747 0

    Good article. We eat salmon a lot, and we usually drink California Pinot Noir, which is really a good pairing, but I'm interested in trying Beaujolai with salmon now.

    May 21, 2010 at 7:49 PM

  • we always drink Rioja with any kind of seafood usualy prepared with pasta and tomato souce wich is a great pairing .
    Good article ; congratulations !

    Jun 22, 2010 at 5:12 PM

  • Snooth User: Bobby Boy
    219559 29

    I drink Pinot with Fish, more often than with White wine these days. Interesting that you recommend a "lighter elegant" style of Pinot. I love Oregon Pinot but would not call it light and elegant. Same goes for Central Otago Pinot - maybe with Tuna.

    Jun 24, 2010 at 8:22 PM

  • Snooth User: Helen Poole
    1337036 29

    good one

    Aug 30, 2013 at 5:57 AM

  • Snooth User: anvilpep
    1370081 34


    Sep 24, 2013 at 12:52 AM

  • well

    Sep 27, 2013 at 1:49 AM

  • nice

    Oct 06, 2013 at 11:35 PM

  • great

    Jan 21, 2014 at 1:04 AM

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