Find the right wine for fish
July 17, 2008
In the summertime, grilling and barbecue rule. With our warmer weather, grilling fish is popular as it offers lighter cuisine. In selecting a wine with fish, the old adage of white wine with fish and red wine with meat has been updated. Lighter styles of both red and white wine work well with seafood.
This column will focus on pairing seafood with chardonnay, as this represents an ideal pairing.
Chardonnay also pairs well with corn on the cob with lots of butter. Unfortunately, some winemakers were a little over the top with barrel aging, resulting in overpowering oakiness which did not appeal to many consumers.
Chardonnay has appealing flavors of butter, butterscotch, vanilla and tropical fruit. This varietal is heavily influenced by the climate and wine making process. In the cooler climates (France), the grape juice is lighter and leaner in style and is aged either in stainless steel vats or in oak barrels that impart a lightly oak flavor. In the warmer climates (California, Australia), chardonnay juice is more hearty and full bodied and can benefit from oak barrel aging. Barrel aging transforms chardonnay into a richer, creamier and more complex beverage.
Recently, California winemakers have been adopting the French style of white wine making, by aging its wine in stainless steel vats. This creates a lighter style that does not overpower the delicate flavors of foods.
In general, chardonnay pairs well with seafood, as it is a low acid wine and seafood is slightly acidic. Chardonnay, with its buttery character, is complex, which compliments the straightforward flavors of seafood. A chardonnay aged in stainless steel pairs better with delicate white fish. The chardonnays produced from warmer wine regions tend to be bigger in style and pair well with rich seafood such as lobster or seafood in cream sauces.
All my picks are of a lighter style of chardonnay with minimal or no oak aging - with suggested retail prices.
Toad Hollow Chardonnay (Mendocino, Calif.) $11.50
Four Vines Naked Chardonnay (Santa Barbara, Calif.) $12.50
Sanford Chardonnay (Santa Barbara, Calif.) $14.50
Verget Chablis (French Chardonnay) $16.
Bill Garlough is a Level One Master Sommelier and part owner of My Chef Catering of Naperville, the 2007 recipient of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's Small Business of the Year Award. He can be reached at www.mychef.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.