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Conventional Wisdoms . . . Red Wine With Fish?

There has not been a lot of ‘scientific research’ about matching certain wines with certain foods. Most of the ’common knowledge’ about the subject has been disseminated by wineries themselves, with specific suggestions of which food to pair with their specific wines.

In addition, there are the ’conventional wisdoms’ that tell us that one should serve only red wine with meat and white wine with fish. And most people seem to take this advice without doing a little ’trial and error’ for themselves . . .

While attending UC Davis, I organized a seminar series on food and wine pairings, since this was a subject that was not covered in the Viticulture and Enology Program (and I simply wanted to learn more about it for my own knowledge!).

One of my favorite classes had the Master of Wine and Executive Chef from the Robert Mondavi Winery visit our class to share their knowledge. They generously agreed to supply food and wine and lead us in an informative comparison of some of these conventional wisdoms.

They grilled steaks on a barbeque we supplied, adding no spice to the meat whatsoever. They steamed white fish, again with no spices. And they steamed asparagus as well – with this vegetable being known as a very difficult one to match with ANY wines.

As we sat down, we were poured two wines – a Fume Blanc and a Cabernet Sauvignon – and were lead through the tasting by the MW. We were instructed to first try the white fish and then the white wine. Not very good at all. We then tried the red wine with the fish – not much different of a reaction from the white.

We then added two magical ingredients to the fish – sea salt and fresh lemon juice – and VOILA . . . Both wines went beautifully with the white fish. The added acid seemed to make the pairing work a lot better.

We went through the same routine with the unseasoned steak and the asparagus spears – and in both cases, the results were the same. Neither worked well with either wine until the food was spiced accordingly.

The moral here? Sometimes it has NOTHING to do with the wine itself – it’s a matter of how the FOOD is prepared in order to make the two match better!

Just thought I’d share . . .and I’m hoping you’ll share your thoughts no this as well!


3 responses to “Conventional Wisdoms . . . Red Wine With Fish?”

  1. Pamela says:

    Good post! Preparation is important, as is the sauce that accompanies the dish. What goes with pizza? What about Mexican food? Fish and red? Why not? Hamburgers? Pairings are not so cut and dry. Red with meat and white with fish don’t cut it. Guidelines are great, but everyone should experiment and find a pairing that they like…and think about the sauce that accompanies the entrée and pair accordingly.

  2. WineWonkette says:

    Interesting. When I eat red meat, I usually prefer only salt and pepper for my seasoning I don’t know that I have EVER eaten steak with no seasoning. But white fish with Cab? Seems a bit too powerful, but it would be fun to do a similar experiment!

  3. txstevo says:

    I am guilty of following the ‘conventional wisdom’, especially when serving guests. Enjoyed the article and will take your insights to heart.