The Wine Primer – Mission: Seafood

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The French call it “fruits de mer” (fruits of the sea) – a charming and appropriate term for what we refer to as seafood. Enjoying a nice seafood dish is inevitably enhanced when paired with the proper wine. Many assume that when eating seafood, you should select any dry white wine - but that is not always the case. In order to appreciate their respective delicate flavors, we’ve selected the 5 best wines to pair with seafood.

Champagne/Sparkling Wine: Shellfish typically work best with a light white wine, sparkling wines, or a selectwine.com personal favorite - champagne. One of our favorites is the Béreche et Fils Brut Reserve Champagne NV. It’s fresh and lively and has a great flavor profile and is the signature cuvee of the house. Expressive, with a fine bubble stream, the aromatics tease with citrus, stone fruit and a touch of brioche. The palate is ample, but defined, with an inviting acidity. Silky and textured mouthfeel and a clean, distinct finish. Another favorite option is the Casteller Cava Brut NV from Spain. It is a flippant and exuberant sparkler that exhibits green apple and citrus aromas. In the mouth, it has crisp, fresh flavors with citrus-lime notes and just a touch of sweetness. It tastes fresh, clean and nervy. This bright, vibrant Cava will pair well with most any tapas, especially those centered on seafood.

Chenin Blanc: This is a misunderstood varietal that not many of us opt for, and that is a great loss to palates everywhere. Chenin Blanc is an excellent value and it is a star performer from many different countries (France, South Africa, California). It always has a bracing acidity with fresh and intricate green apple, citrus and minerality and pairs marvelously with freshwater fish like trout or perch. One of our favorite go-to CB’s is the Ken Forrester ‘Petit’ Chenin Blanc 2017 from South Africa. Fresh, flirty and racy it is a wine that acts perfectly as a liquid catalyst to amp up your favorite fish dishes. An excellent value and a solid everyday drinker. Give it a chance! You will not be disappointed.

Sauvignon Blanc: Sauvignon Blanc has rapidly taken over center stage (for many) from Chardonnay. And rightly so. It can provide both brilliant acidity and tautness, or be barrel-aged to tender a more “chardonnay-like” aspect of curves and plumpness. Either interpretation is bound to captivate and both can properly accompany a myriad of seafood scenarios. From grilled shrimp to seared scallops to broiled halibut, SB clinches the prize for versatility in food pairing. Two of our favorites are the Balverne 2017 from Russian River Valley and the Pascal Jolivet Sancerre 2017 from the Loire Valley. Both have that punch of acidity that make your mouth water and remind you of sunny summer days dining al fresco.

Chardonnay: If you are serving firm, white-fleshed fish, such as seabass or mahi mahi, it pairs wonderfully with Chardonnay or white Burgundy. Nowadays, many options abound in the realm of Chardonnay. You have both oaked and unoaked creations with a plethora of in-between choices. Want a more pronounced creaminess and buttery interpretation? Why not splurge a bit and grab a bottle of the 95-point deliciousness that is the Hudson Vineyard Carneros 2015? Looking for something a bit tamer and more in line with freshness and light? The Montsablé Chardonnay Languedoc 2015 is the best choice in terms of both quality and price. Beautiful, drink-me-now appeal from the South of France.

Pinot Noir: Stronger flavored fish, such as salmon and ahi, work great with Pinot Noir. The meaty aspect of these fish pander to the cherry fruit, smoky and floral notes that are the signature of fine Pinot Noir. If you’re going to grill your fish, we suggest a more substantial style of Pinot like the Hanzell Vineyards Pinot Noir Sonoma Valley 2012. Boasting a solid core and firm, defined fruit and acid, it is a perfect foil to salmon on the grill or plank. For meals that require a simpler and fruitier version – like seared/blackened ahi - the Craggy Range Pinot Noir Martinborough New Zealand 2016 is a killer deal and provides a bounty of pleasure in every glass.

So, my intrepid pescatarian friends, the next time you take a trip to your favorite seafood restaurant or beach town bistro, remember the wines that work best with the fish you choose to eat. The right choice will make for a more remarkable overall experience; one that is just as important as the taste of both the entrée and the wine itself. Bon appétit!