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Does Fish and Red Wine Go Well Together in Italian Cooking?

Does Fish and Red Wine Go Well Together in Italian Cooking?

Many will advise drinking white wine with fish only, however this rule doesn't take into account some important considerations about food and wine pairing.

Red wines typically aren't recommended with fish due to their higher tannin content which reacts with oil in your mouth and produces a metallic aftertaste, however low tannin red wines like Pinot Noir or Gamay can work nicely when served alongside certain seafood dishes.

Grilled fish

Although most believe white wine pairs well with fish, any color can work for any type of cooked seafood dish. A light lemon pepper marinated grilled striped bass might go perfectly with the bright, citrussy white Susumaniello from Valle d'Itria; for a smoky and spicy dish such as tilapia in black bean sauce from Loire Valley or Austria such as Gruner Veltliner could work perfectly as well.

White Burgundy with Dover sole meuniere can also be complemented with bone-dry Muscadet from the Loire or lightly oaked Chardonnay; ocean dwellers such as halibut, sea bass or tuna benefit from minerality in an unoaked Pinot Noir like Kurtatsch Mazon that should be served slightly chilled; its tannins must match up well with both fish or sauce intensity levels; wines featuring fuller, softer tannins such as New World Syrah or Merlot make great accompaniments when serving richer dishes!

Deep-fried fish

Families around the globe celebrate a feast of seven fishes for Christmas Eve dinner. While traditional pairing practice suggests white wine pairs well with seafood dishes, red wines can also make great accompaniments.

Fish type and preparation dictate which wine pairs well. Delicate, mild-flavor fish like plaice, sole, or tilapia pair well with light citrusy white wines such as Pinot Gris or Grillo; island white wines from Sardinia or Sicily often boast fresh salty flavors that pair nicely with fish dishes.

If the fish is prepared in a strong-flavored sauce, pairing it with a medium bodied red would be optimal. Monkfish, skate, lobster and sea scallops all pair perfectly with red wines because their rich textures balance the tannins found within. A perfect example would be Chianti from Tuscany in Italy for such dishes!


Anchovies may make some chefs shudder, but this tiny Mediterranean fish is an amazing versatile ingredient. Anchovies contain umami - the "fifth taste," as well as being used as part of Roman fermented fish sauce garum. Cured anchovies can be used as pizza toppings or pasta sauces like puttanesca; and pair beautifully with light-bodied red wines like Portugal's Alvarinho or Spain's Albario or Verdejo wines, or salty Fino or Manzanilla sherries from Spain!

Fresh anchovy fillets (acciughe) can be found at Italian markets in jars while tinned anchovies preserved in oil are readily available at most grocery stores. Both options pair perfectly with olive oil and toast bread as in open-faced sardine sandwiches or can even add protein-rich punch to salad dressings or dips!

Saltiness from anchovies can be easily reduced using white wine, such as in this linguine with clams recipe. They also add depth to dishes such as this hanger steak and broccoli rabe dinner.


Lean and flaky fish such as plaice, sole, trout, cod or tilapia pair well with zesty white wines that complement their flavor profile, such as dry Rieslings from California Sauvignon Blancs to Pinot Grigios. Medium firm or grilled preparations of fish work better when served alongside light red wines such as Beaujolais or Loire Valley wine; strongly-flavored or smoky dishes featuring olives or capers should be enjoyed with fuller red wines such as Syrahs or Merlots.

Oily fish is the ideal pairing for light to full red wines as its fat absorbs their tannins, helping soften and eliminate metallic flavors found in pairing wine and fatty meat together. Pair your young Pinot Noir with Mexican tacos loaded with chilli peppers or an Italian-style traybake featuring tomatoes, green olives, capers and caper. A rich oak-aged Chardonnay also works perfectly when pairing it with seared or smoked salmon and gravadlax dishes.

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