Pairing Wine with Sardines

“Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not-that-good lobster." Fresh or canned, learn how to prepare and pair an overlooked ocean gem.
Photo by Aaron Graubart

Most Americans know sardines in love-them-or-hate-them canned form, but coastal cultures around the world, from Italy, Spain and Portugal to India and Japan, eat them fresh. That way, this small fish—actually comprising several species in the Clupeidae family—is firmer and less fishy than the canned version, comparable to mackerel. If you find fresh sardines, have your fishmonger clean, gut and scale them. Then, season and char them on a hot grill for two minutes per side. They’re difficult to overcook, so they’re perfect for the grill.

“Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not-that-good lobster.”
—Ferran Adrià

Fun Facts

The Guinness world record for “most seafood prepared at an outdoor event” was 14,000 pounds of sardines at a 2010 festival in Setúbal, Portugal.

The Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History has a 14-karat gold sardine can in its collection, enhanced with 55 Russian diamonds, by gemstone artist Sidney Mobell.

In 1989, in Ipswich, Australia, about 800 sardines fell from the sky onto a couple’s lawn during a light rain.

The expression “packed like sardines” was first recorded in 1911 in the letters of English poet Wilfred Owen.

Avocado-Anchovy Dip

Pair It

To cut through the rich fish, try high-acid coastal white wines like Albariño from Rías Baixas, Muscadet, Vermentino from Southern Italy’s coast, Santorini Assyrtiko and Vinho Verde (the Portuguese are likely to drink equally crisp red Vinho Verde).

Our canned sardines pick:
Wild Planet’s Wild Sardines in Extra-Virgin Olive Oil

Adam Petronzio, wine director at Oceana in New York City, says, “I’m a little old school and typically pair sardines with a white wine, but I also really like pairing it with still and sparkling rosés. For sparkling, the Camel Valley 2014 Pinot Noir Brut Rosé [Cornwall, England] features a fruit flavor not masked by the autolytic flavors that add to the complexity, giving an amazing contrast to the fish. For still, I like the Eugene Carrel 2016 Rosé de Savoie, [a blend of Gamay and Mondeuse]…. Its balanced acidity lifts the fish to elegant heights.”

 

Published on August 12, 2017
Topics: Seafood
About the Author
Nils Bernstein
Contributing Editor, Food

A fan of sweet wines, sour beers, and old-school Rioja, Bernstein is an exhaustive traveler in search of new and unsung chefs and restaurants, innovative wine and food pairings, and eating and drinking at the source. In addition to Wine Enthusiast, Bernstein has written for Bon Appetit, Men’s Journal, New York Times, Men’s Fitness, Hemispheres, and Kinfolk, among others.

Email: nbernstein@wineenthusiast.net




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