The Event
Choosing the Best Wine for Fish
© by Sheral Schowe
The Fourth of July barbecues are still ablaze in Utah, and will be for quite some time, I’m sure, since some doubt the actual beginning and ending date of this year’s celebration.

For those of you who enjoy wine, you probably celebrated Independence Day the old fashioned way—on the 4th. It was surprising to hear how many holiday barbecues included fish this year. Here are a few wine suggestions for your favorite catch of the day.

There is nothing more festive than sparkling wine, particularly champagne, to celebrate an occasion. Sparkling wine can complement the entire meal, from the seafood appetizers, to the main course, to the dessert. It is a classic with raw oysters. For seafood with rich creamy sauces or spicy Oriental dishes, sparkling wines are an excellent, no-fail choice. In fact, when the ingredients are so complex that your wine selection is a puzzle, champagne is the answer.

Chardonnay, particularly the majority of domestic ones, has a rich, almost buttery taste. The best match would be a seafood dish with a warm, rich, buttery or creamy sauce. Pairing similar flavor characteristics of food and wine make excellent combinations. The best choices in fish for this varietal would be lobster, crab, tuna, swordfish, or shark. Other light fishes can also pair well with chardonnay, if the sauce is rich enough. Sauvignon blanc is lighter in body, crisp tasting, with flavors of fresh herbs, green grass, and citrus. Try this wine with fresh, simply prepared or cold seafood. Shrimp, oysters, clams, mussels, and light fishes such as mahi-mahi with a simple wine sauce and fresh herbs would all be delicious with sauvignon blanc.

Since 10 percent of all wine sales are white zinfandel, there will undoubtedly be some fans in any gathering. But there is a great place for this wine with fish in addition to other rose and blush wines. The fruity sweet flavor is a terrific balance to Cajun and other spicy preparations. It is also good with barbecue sauce and other tomato-based sauces. Try grilled salmon with a barbecue teriyaki glaze or Cajun shrimp with the fruity, pink wines. German Riesling is light, slightly sweet, with crisp, racy acidity. It is perfect with scallops, clams, pollock, grilled shrimp, calamari, trout, or baked oysters.

Red wines also have their place with fish, as long as they are light to medium bodied, low on the tannins, and are served with the meatier fishes, such as sturgeon, tuna, shark, and swordfish. The best choices are Beaujolais, pinot noir, and merlot. My favorite pairing with barbecued salmon is pinot noir. A surprisingly delicious combination is a light, fruity, red zinfandel with a classic crab cioppino.

July 8, 1999

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