Pairing Wine with Fish

May 20, 2013 Blog » Wine Tips & Tricks » Pairing Wine with Fish

Learn what wines pair best with the four different groups of fin fish. From flaky tilapia to steak-like swordfish, there are a range of potential wine pairings. Beyond just the choice of fish, the sauce and fish preparation affects what tastes best when pairing wine with fish.

Wine with Fish Guide

Fish With Wine

4 Different Types of Fish with Wine

Fin fish can be characterized into 4 major groups by texture and flavor. As a general rule white wine pairs well with most fish, but certain white wines go better with certain types of fish.

1. Lean and Flaky Fish

Mild flavored white fish with filets that are usually thin.

  • Sea Bass, Branzino, Black Sea bass, Flounder, Perch, Porgy, Sole, Fluke, Tilapia, Wild Striped Bass, Pollock, Haddock

Wine with Flaky Fish

Look for zesty and refreshing whites to balance the delicate fish flavor.

  • Grüner Veltliner
    Vermentino (Italy)
    Pinot Grigio (Italy)
    White wines from the South of France
  • Vinho Verde (Portugal)
    Muscadet (Loire)
    Greek Whites
    Portuguese Whites
  • Sauvignon Blanc (Loire, France)
    Sauvignon Blanc (Washington)
    White Bordeaux
    Verdejo (Rueda, Spain)
    Chardonnay (Chablis, France)


2. Medium Textured Fish

Still flaky but firmer and thicker.

  • Trout, Arctic char, Catfish, Red snapper, Grouper, Skate, Cod, Hake, Black fish, Haddock, Redfish, Halibut, Black Cod (Sablefish), Monkfish, Chilean Seabass, Escobar

Wine with Medium Textured Fish

Look for medium bodied whites with high aromatics and rich full-bodied whites aged in oak.

  • Chardonnay
    Sauvignon Blanc (CA)
    Sauvignon Blanc (NZ)
    White Rioja
  • Semillon
    Dry Chenin Blanc
    Fiano (Italy)
    Moschofilero (Greece)
  • Dry Riesling (Washington)
    Pinot Gris (US)
    Pinot Gris (Alsace)
    Garganega (Soave)


3. Meaty Fish

Types of fish that are firm with a meaty and steak-like texture.

  • Bluefish, Salmon, Mackerel, Mahi Mahi, Shark, Swordfish, Tuna, Monkfish

Wine with Meaty Fish

Rich white wines with lots of flavor and even a few red and rosé wines.


4. Strongly Flavored Fish

Strongly flavored fishes that are salty and taste like the sea.

  • Anchovies, Sardines, Herring, Mackerel

Wine with Strongly Flavored Fish

  • Champagne
    Cremant de Bourgogne
    Cremant de Limoux
    Cremant de Bordeaux
  • Dry Lambrusco Rosé
    Dry Rosé
    Pinot Noir
  • Greek Red Wines
    Dry Riesling
    Grenache Blanc

Pairing wine with fish

Fish Preparations & Sauces

Zesty Sauces with Wine

Beurre Blanc, Lemon, Lime, Vinegar-based Sauces
Try lighter zestier white wines and wines with more herbal and savory characteristics such as Sauvignon Blanc, Muscadet, Cortese di Gavi, Verdejo, Vinho Verde, White Bordeaux and Grenache Blanc.

Sweet Sauces with Wine

Pineapple, Mango, Orange, Teriyaki, Sweet and Sour
Look for wines with a touch more sweetness than the sauce. The darker the sauce, the darker your wine should be in the rosé spectrum. For instance, Teriyaki with Lambrusco or Meyer lemon glazed tilapia with Spätlese Riesling.

Spicy Sauces with Wine

Paprika, Pepper, Cumin, Coriander, Chili
Chili crusted fish are more about the fish’s texture bringing out the spices and seasonings. Spiced fish dishes match well with spice driven wines such as Grüner Veltliner, Gewürztraminer, Riesling and even a lighter red wine such as Grenache.

Curry Sauces with Wine

Thai Curry, Indian Curry
Curry sauces tend to be a little sweet and because of their spices look for sweet wines like Riesling, Moscato, Gewürztraminer and Prosecco.

Fish Tacos with Wine

Fish tacos go really well with Grüner Veltliner, Muscadet and Champagne.

Herb Sauces with Wine

Basil, Parsley, Mint, Cilantro, Dill, Capers, Cucumber
Wines with herbaceous notes taste richly floral when paired with green herbs. Check out Sauvignon Blanc, Chablis, Grenache Blanc, Torrontés and Trebbiano.

Smoked Salmon or Trout with Wine

Richly smoked fishes are a little drier and need wine pairings that quench them. Garnacha rosé, Vintage Champagne, Rosé Sparkling Wines, Dry Riesling, Dry Furmint (Tokaji) and White Pinot Noir will pair well.

Raw Fish with Wine

Try most sparkling wines and bone dry white wines like Muscadet, Assyrtiko, Vinho Verde, Albariño, Dry Furmint (Tokaji) and Ugni Blanc (aka Trebbiano).

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By Madeline Puckette
I'm a certified sommelier and creator of the NYT Bestseller, Wine Folly: The Essential Guide to Wine. Find me out there in the wine world @WineFolly