There are certain classics when it comes to food and wine. Chardonnay and oysters, Cabernet Sauvignon and steak, Champagne and caviar, and of course, the list of wine and cheese pairings are nearly endless.
One of the trickier pairings is fish, simply because, unlike many other types of meats, fish is incredibly versatile in density, flavor, smokiness, delicacy, and oiliness. Not to mention the many ways that fish can be cooked and the spectrum of sauces that compliment fish, each of which offer unique notes that pair beautifully with different wines.
Let’s get started!
What to Consider When Choosing a Wine for Fish
Whether you’re planning a dinner party, cooking a romantic dinner, or are simply a passionate home cook and food blogger, here are a few tips to consider when navigating the realm of fish and wine.
- How will the fish be prepared? Are you frying the fish? If so, go for something sparkling that will cut through the fat.
- What about the body of the fish? People often speak about the body of a wine, which is the density and fullness you experience after wine tasting, but fish can have body, too—pair full-bodied wine with full-bodied fish, like striped bass. In contrast, pair lighter-bodied wines with light, flaky fish.
- Will your fish dish have a bite? Spice is essential when choosing a wine. Are you cooking a zingy red curry haddock dish? If so, opt for wines that offer lingering sweetness.
- Are you cooking with a big-flavored or fatty fish? In this case, don’t be shy to venture into the light red wine category, having fewer tannins than medium- to full-bodied wines. For example, wines like this Sol de Luz 2017 Syrah, although wonderful with red and game meat, may overpower your dish.
Tip: Try to avoid reds when cooking spicy fish dishes. You may experience an unpleasant, metallic taste.
Wine and Fish Pairing Suggestions
If you’ve already mastered how to pair wine and cheese, you’re ready to dive into the world of wine and fish pairings. The key is understanding how certain wines complement specific tasting notes, textures, etc.
Overall, Chardonnay pairs beautifully with fish and other delights from the sea.
Chardonnay can be oak-aged, unoaked, full-bodied, light-bodied, young, mature, and the list goes on. That is why it’s important to pay attention to a chardonnay’s specific tasting notes. For example, an unoaked Chardonnay will pair well with shellfish, such as clams or mussels, and for fish, it’s the perfect accompaniment for white, flaky fish. Think halibut, pollock, cod, and haddock.
In contrast, when a Chardonnay is oaked, it holds up well to the fattiness of salmon, including its crunchy pan-seared skin.
- 2018 Sweet Oaks – Grandma’s Chardonnay (perfect for salmon, tuna, or grilled swordfish, as well as meaty fish that has toasted nuts, like this walnut-crusted cod).
- If you’re grilling fish or seafood, this grenache rosé wine is another sure winner!
- Sweet Oaks 2017 Chardonnay (perfect for lighter, more delicate fish and baked fish with butter and herbs, such as this lemon butter halibut).
For many, Pinot Grigio is the go-to wine for fish and shellfish. This light, dry wine offers a crisp body with notes of citrus and fruit. That is why Pinot Grigio goes with everything from sushi to pan-seared flounder.
From simple-grilled red snapper to the baked sole, Pinot Grigio is an ideal pairing.
- 2020 Sweet Oaks – Pinot Grigio is incredibly versatile (perfect for fried whitebait with a squeeze of lemon, grilled calamari, and even rich wild salmon). Pinot Grigio is also great with fish and chips. Try this classic British fish and chips recipe!
Tip: For grilled fish, including salmon, and dishes like this Spanish paprika fish, another great option is this Sweet Oaks 2017 Viognier.
Pinot Noir is rich yet bright in flavor, often showcasing berries and other red fruit. However, it’s not sweet — many are dry and spicy, including this 2018 Sweet Oaks – Never A Dull Moment – Pinot Noir.
This wine, as well as other Pinot Noirs, pairs well with meaty and pink fish, as well as strongly flavored fish, such as anchovies, herring, and mackerel.
- The above 2018 Pinot Noir pairs well with smoked trout and sardines. Other options include poached mackerel and grilled tuna, served with a tomato, corn, and avocado salad.
Find the Perfect Wine From Sweet Oaks Winery
Regardless of the occasion, Sweet Oaks has a wine for you. Crafted in Temecula, the heart of California’s wine county, you’ll find everything from a 2016 Zinfandel to a 2019 “Crème De La Crème” Chardonnay.
Are you looking for the perfect wine to pair with your favorite fish or seafood dish? Check out and shop our exquisite selection of wine!