Brian Elliott: Don’t take your choice for granted when matching white wine with fish

Some whites make a far better match for fish dishes than others, writes Brian Elliott

Published 29th Mar 2016
Updated 21 st Sep 2023

Pairing fish with white wine is not an infallible rule, but heavy red wines usually overwhelm the food, while its iron content can make everything taste nasty. However, not all white wine will work with all fish, so here are a few guidelines for anyone considering a piscine meal.

Avoid assertive sauvignon with shellfish and go instead for measured versions like the Loire Valley’s floral and rounded 2014 Domaine Joël Delaunay Touraine Chenonceaux La Voûte (£14.50 at Oddbins). Its firm grapefruit acidity is mellowed by a classy pear-centred depth, yet still allows the shellfish to shine though.

Another option is South Africa’s excellent 2012 Waterkloof Circle of Life White (£15 at WoodWinters) where the wine’s lime-based acidity is smoothed by creamy – almost honeyed – textures that sit beneath the banana and ripe melon fruit.

Subtlety is also needed with white fish. For example, the fresh and polished 2012 Muscadet Le Pallet (£9.99 at Majestic) centres around apple peel and white peach touches that suit haddock well – but the wine has a complex savoury twist as well.

For something a shade more robust, try the Rhône Valley’s equally savoury 2014 Château Pesquié Les Terrasses Blanc (£11.25 at L’Art du Vin). Here the floral, nectarine flavours are expertly balanced by fresh tangerine-based acidity with a suggestion of grilled pineapple (viognier-derived, I suspect).

Although I have often enjoyed harmonious pinot noir and salmon matches, the top marks go to white wines this time. Enter then – as my choice with plainly cooked salmon – a superstar from the Provençal appellation of Cassis. 2014 Cassis White Clos Sainte Magdeleine (£19.95 at Yapp Brothers) combines fresh apricot fruit with touches of pear and a brioche style conclusion.

More conventionally – but very effectively – an excellent match also emerges between salmon and the lively lime and bold apple fruit in the flavoursome and crisp 2014 Dourthe
No 1 Sauvignon Blanc (£8.50 at The Wine Society).


2014 Frunză Pinot Grigio

Romania, 12 per cent
I have long lauded this smooth and floral pinot grigio which has so much more life than the blander of the Italian equivalents. While the acidity itself is measured, there are excellent zesty apple and ripe melon flavours on display here coupled with lingering, slightly honeyed substance and contributions from the sweeter spices.
£7 at Oddbins

2013 Kaiken Terroir Series Cabernet Sauvignon Mendoza

Argentina, 14 per cent
With high altitude vineyards, touches of malbec and petit verdot and the sparing use of oak, this red is centred around soft cherry, prune and blackcurrant fruit. It also has hints of chocolate, vanilla and nutmeg and a firmness to both its tannin and its acidity.
£10 at Cornelius Beer & Wine, Edinburgh

• Follow Brian Elliott on Twitter @midweekwines

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