Pairings: Fish as an ingredient

Pairings: Fish as an ingredient
II Palio Ristorante, Chapel Hill, NC

Seafood admirers have stocked up on their favorites wines, with firm ideas about what works and what doesn’t.  Oyster lovers stand by their Sauvignon Blanc chaser, just as those with grilled salmon on the plate assertively reach for a glass of Pinot Noir by the side. A similar case can be made for a chilled rosé with a cool bowl of ceviche or Vermentino with grilled scallops or squid.

These clear choices get a little muddled when more ingredients are added to the mix. What do you do with paella, cioppino, seafood gumbo, or Provençal fish stew? The accents created by the multiple flavors skew the choice of wine, but it’s still not an unsolvable mystery.

Spain’s Albariño, or Alvarinho as it’s called in Portugal, is a match for paella—the saffron-infused Spanish dish that combines seafood with rice and long-simmered vegetables. Paella can also be made with chicken or pork, but the tomato, onion and garlic flavors determine the wine to be served. In this case, Albariño’s rich creamy textures and accents of citrus and peach can stand up to the layered flavors of the dish.

Italy’s Dolcetto works perfectly with cioppino, a slow-cooked stew of fish and tomatoes. The choice of a red wine in this case is right since most recipes for cioppino include tomato paste, red pepper flakes, black pepper, and red wine in the medley of ingredients. Seafood gumbo also fits this wine, with accents of bacon, tomato and onion.

Provençal fish stew offers the Gallic version of these other preparations, with an array of herbs to set up the flavors of celery, carrots, leeks and fennel, accented with a delicate balance of saffron, cayenne and bay leaves.  Serve the dish alongside a light but firm flavored wine, such as Chablis or a Bandol rosé.

For the more richly textured bouillabaisse, stay with Chablis. The dish lacks some of the spicy accents found in the Provençal fish stew, so a rosé or red wine may not work.

There is no season for seafood. But the approach of cooler weather makes seafood stews a natural repast, especially when served with the right wine.



Published on September 17, 2010