Red wine with fish? Maybe
But the next rule we learn is that there's an exception to every rule, and this one is no exception. Fish cooked in red wine, as is commonplace in Bordeaux, demands a red wine to go with it. And fish that's not delicate white but oily and dark - bluefish, mackerel, tuna or salmon - opens up another world of red-wine-and-fish possibilities.
The affinity of salmon and Pinot Noir in particular has become well-known. Salmon is fatty and rich; Pinot tends to be lighter and more subtle than the bigger reds. Together, they break the old rules in a delicious way.
Or do they?
I've often enjoyed Pinot and salmon, so I know the match works. But last night, feeling in an experimental mood, I decided to serve a salmon dish with a red and a white wine so we could compare and contrast.
It was Sunday, so the fish market wasn't open, but a can of Alaskan salmon and an old recipe for salmon croquettes filled the bill, with a quick modification involving a nonstick skillet to keep them within our current hold-the-calories lifestyle. We opened up the Pinot Noir and Pinot Grigio reviewed below, and got right to work.
The result? Both wines worked OK, but here's the hard truth: Despite the new conventional wisdom, in this particular pairing on this particular day, the white wine seemed to make the better match. The red was palate-freshening but almost too fruity and ripe to complement the fish; it was like pouring chocolate sauce on a salad. The white, on the other hand, didn't merely cleanse the palate; its flavors and those of the fish harmonized like a pair of New Orleans street musicians on a Dixieland riff.
What did this experiment prove? Not a whole lot. Maybe we "proved" the rule about white wine and fish, but the red-wine match certainly worked. But here's the most important lesson, and you can apply it to all things wine: Learn the rules, but don't be afraid to test them. There's no better way to learn what YOU like than trying it for yourself.
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Two with salmon
Dark-garnet in color, this fruity red offers the characteristic aromas of Central California Pinot Noir - black cherries and fresh tomatoes - with slightly tart tomato-skin and cherry-cola flavors, so forward that it almost seems sweet at first, but it finishes full and dry. (Sept. 16, 2001)
Peter Zemmer 2000 Alto Adige Pinot Grigio ($9.99)
FOOD MATCH: As discussed, both wines went well with salmon croquettes; but in this particular pairing the white makes the more interesting match.
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Vol. 3, No. 35, Sept. 17, 2001