Fish

Jukes Wine And Food Fish

The flavour intensity of fish depends not only on the sort of fish you are cooking but also, crucially, on how it is cooked. The general rule is the milder the flavour, the lighter the white wine, and the richer the flavour, the heavier the white wine – I know this is obvious, but it is worth stating. Fish cooked in red wine is one of the few exceptions to this white-dominated section, as a light, fresh red would simply meld better with the sauce. From Bianco de Custoza and Soave (Italy), Austrian Grüner Veltliner, Menetou-Salon and Sauvignon de Touraine (Loire), white Burgundy (Mâcon, Rully, Pouilly-Fuissé, Meursault and so on), finer, controlled Californian Chardonnay, zesty Jurançon Sec, heady, elite Australian or New Zealand Pinot Gris, plump Marsanne or whip-cracking Hunter Valley Semillon, to any aromatic Riesling or Viognier – the opportunities are endless. Just remember that poaching and steaming are gentler, non-taste-altering ways of cooking fish, while grilling, searing, frying and roasting all impart distinctive charred or caramelised nuances to the flesh. Also, consider what you are cooking the fish with; check through your recipe for strongly flavoured ingredients, such as lemon, capers, balsamic vinegar, flavoured olive oil and pungent herbs. Often, the finer the piece of fish, the more money you should chuck at the wine. Dover sole, lemon sole, turbot and sea bass, at the top of my Premier-fish-league, are all pretty pricey, but if you are that committed to a dish you should endeavour to complete the picture by splashing out on a worthy bottle of white Burgundy. Failing that, for under a tenner you could pick up a top South African Chardonnay, Australian Semillon, Eden Valley or Clare Valley Riesling, Adelaide Hills Chardonnay, Riesling from Alsace, posh Lugana or Gavi from Italy, dry white Graves (Bordeaux), white Rhône wines or trendy Spanish Albariño to go with these fish. Halibut, John Dory, sea bream, skate and brill all enjoy these styles of wine, too, while swordfish, monkfish and hake can take on slightly weightier whites (or even a fresh, light red, such as Beaujolais). Salmon (poached or grilled) also likes Chardonnay, whether it is from the Old or New World, but give oaky styles a wide berth. Trout loves Riesling and the all-time classic Chablis. But, for an especially wicked combo, try to track down the unusually scented, dry French wine, Jurançon Sec. Fish cakes, especially proper ones with a high salmon content, go wonderfully with dry Riesling, richer Sauvignon Blancs or fresh, mildly oaked Semillons, particularly if you are keen on a generous spoonful of tartare sauce (these grapes can handle it). Red mullet has more than enough character to cope with rosé wines, making a beautiful pink partnership between plate and glass. Kedgeree is trickier (it’s breakfast, slow down!), as the combo of smoked haddock, cayenne, parsley and egg might make you lean towards red. But don’t, as rapier-like acidity is needed to slice through this dish and I’m sure you know which white grape does this best – Sauvignon Blanc. Sauvignon is also the grape to enjoy with fish ’n’ chips (cod, haddock or plaice) because it can handle the batter (sometimes made with beer) and, to a certain degree, the vinegar (but go easy), and it shines with fish pie – poshest partnership being the Loire all-stars Pouilly-Fumé or Sancerre. If you fancy a trip to the New World, then Marlborough in New Zealand has to be the starting point for fans of this zesty grape, with South Africa being next and Australia’s Margaret River giving the best Sem/Sauv blends outside of Bordeaux. Fish soups and stews need more weight in the glass, and one of the finest matches is white Rhône, made from Marsanne and Roussanne, or Viognier. Aussie Marsanne or Pinot Gris would also be a great option. Sardines require masses of perky acidity to cut through their oily flesh, and once again Sauvignon Blanc and also Portuguese Vinho Verde are winners. Having said this, don’t forget poor old Muscadet or Italian Pinot Grigio, Arneis, Verdicchio or Gavi. Spanish Albariño, French Aligoté and even light reds, like Gamay, would also be smashing. Canned tuna just needs unoaked, dry white wine – boring. However, albacore, the finer, paler version, is more delicately flavoured so take care not to swamp it. The Italian trio, Lugana, Bianco di Custoza, Arneis, Favorita and Soave Classico, would do this job well and with the required style. Fresh tuna, seared and served rare, desperately crave juicy, fresh, baby-light reds and chilled rosés (you could sneak a Sauvignon in if you wish). Brandade de morue (salt cod or bacalao/bacalhau), with its garlic and oil components, can stand up to whites with a little more soul. Albariño, from Galicia in Spain, is a perfect choice. However, funky Penedès whites and even light rosés are all within its grasp. Herrings, kippers and rollmops all have a more robust texture and aroma thanks to the curing process. Once again, dry whites and rosés work well, but steer clear of oaked whites, as the pungent barrel nuances will overshadow the subtleties of the dish. Smoked eel is often served with crème fraîche, and cream is always a little problematic for wine, but look to Austrian Riesling or Grüner Veltliner, top-end Italian Pinot Grigio or bone-dry, world-class dry Riesling, and almost any dry white wine from Alsace. These will all relish the challenge. Smoked salmon is perfect with Gewürztraminer, whether it is from Alsace, Germany, Italy, Oz or Chile. Just make sure you buy a ‘dry’, not ‘off-dry’ version. The scent and tropical nature of Gewürz work amazingly well, but so does Viognier and even Canadian Pinot Blanc. Don’t forget Champagne, top-end Tasmanian or Californian sparkling wine, particularly if serving blinis topped with smoked salmon and caviar. Smoked trout or smoked mackerel pâté is a challenge – fishy, smoky and creamy flavours all in one dish. South Australian Riesling, Hunter Valley Semillon, Adelaide Hills Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Gris (all Aussies), southern French Viognier, lighter Alsatian Riesling and Pinot Blanc are all perfect matches. Lastly, curries or Asian fish dishes often sport spices, such as turmeric, ginger and chilli, so turn to two of our favourite saviour white grapes for a solution – New World Sauvignon Blanc’s supreme confidence and Australia’s world-class, mind-blowing array of dry Rieslings – these are all stunning value – yum.