There is a huge misconception that you have to drink red wine with steak and white wine with fish….this is an idea that I can not stand. Yes, typically, you look to the wine from a region and pair it with the food from that region to get the ideal pairing, but…BUT….that is not the end all be all of truths in wine pairing.
I am often asked what would I pair with what, and 9 times out of 10, I advise to drink what you like. Trying to stick to standards that don’t fit your palate will just leave you with a bad taste in your mouth. Personally, I don’t eat a lot of red meat, game or really anything that walks on land….but it is rare for me to find a fish I won’t eat, and preferring to stick to a more Mediterranean type diet with lots of veggies, fish, cheese, nuts and grains.
However, I love a great glass of red wine…Barolo in particular is one of my favorites made from the highly tannic, big and bold Nebbiolo grape. Typically this wine would only be served with a hearty meal filled with meat, pasta and big flavors. I prefer it with a bit of hard cheese like parmesan, or a large bowl of roasted mushrooms with rosemary and thyme. This is truffle country, so pairing Barolo with black or white truffle simply shaved over a baguette with fresh butter is a dream. I do, however, opt to drink a Barolo that has had time to age, allowing some of the harsh tannins in the wine to soften, so the wine isn’t as overpowering.
Similarly, while in Argentina a few years ago I attended a number of Asado celebrations – evening barbecues filled with roasted meats, sausages and lots of Malbec, the black grape. I love the flavor of Malbec, with intense Morelo cherry notes followed by herbal, earthy aromas with licorice and spice on the palate. Argentina is also making incredible cows milk cheese, hearty olive oil from locally grown olives, and fruity avocado oils from their avocados, which they then use as toppings for huge salads of fresh greens and locally grown tomatoes. Pairing these with a bit of fresh bread was a flavor delight, and satisfying enough to please even the beef eaters.
The other night we had an incredible licorice, cherry and plum filled Cabernet Sauvignon at Capital Grille. The wine was a part of their annual Artist Series, specially created by Capital Grille Master Sommelier George Miliotes and winemaker Thomas Peffer of Atalon Vineyard in Napa California. I paired this hearty wine with an rich cedar plank salmon with fennel and tomato. The smoky fish was an ideal pairing with the Cabernet as the leathery, spiced flavors married with the hearty fish flavors, while still maintaining a subtle elegance.
I am not saying that white wine with fish isn’t a perfect pairing, or that all red wines will match with every fish option. What I am saying is don’t be afraid to drink what you like, and enjoy it. You know what will fit your tastes, raise a glass to that!