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Which wine goes with fish?

Fish is delicious and easy to digest. As a light alternative to meat, it is increasingly popular. But is it true that only white wine goes with fish? It depends on the fish.
With such a fantastically wide selection of different types of fish, there are no limits on how creative you can get in the kitchen. Because of this, you're guaranteed to find a fish dish that goes wonderfully with your favourite wine. Whether red, rosé or white – fish and wine get along well, provided you observe a few basic rules.

Which wine should you serve with fish – the basics

Wine and fish go well together when the wine complements and supports the aroma of the dish, rather than overwhelming it. As a rule, for subtly seasoned, sautéed or boiled freshwater fish, a light, low-acidity white wine fits the bill. Sautéed saltwater fish with a stronger, distinctive flavour goes well with a more robust white wine with more acidity, whilst a strongly seasoned, smoked or grilled fish partners well with rosé wines or red wines with a low tannin content. Light, fruity red wines also go well with fish. The only wines to avoid serving with fish are tannin-rich reds, as robust tannins are at odds with fish protein. This quickly creates a strange taste which detracts from the aroma of the fish.So, whether fish and wine work in harmony depends crucially on the fish dish involved. How fish is cooked varies depending on the type of fish and its consistency. Whilst the cooking method combined with the unique flavour of the fish sets the tone, it is the sauces, dips and herbs served with the fish that are the star attraction in terms of aromas. These must also be taken into account when selecting a wine to go with fish.

Pan-fried/grilled fish: which wine goes with it?

Large fish in particular, that are firm and fatty, are often pan-fried or grilled. Some examples are trout, salmon, sea bream and sea bass.
As a rule, to retain moisture fish should be pan-fried skin side down or in breadcrumbs. When grilling, the fish should be placed on foil on the rack.
Both cooking methods produce the distinctive roasted aromas. More robust, spicier sauces can confidently be served with pan-fried or grilled fish. This must be borne in mind when selecting a wine.
It is advisable to choose more aromatic wines to go with the fish, which are more full-bodied – and that certainly includes red wines. Depending on the dish, elegant, complex and refined red wines are a better bet than any white wine. Strongly smoked fish tastes wonderful with rosé wines from the south of France.
Warning: Fish protein and robust tannins do not go together.
Tip: Fruity red wine and fish taste best together when the red wine is slightly chilled.
Examples: Tuna, trout

Our experts’ wine recommendations for fish

Steamed/poached fish: which wine tastes best?

Steaming is one of the gentlest cooking methods, preserving most of the nutrients in fish, as well as its shape. What's more, it is very low in fat and the flavour remains unaltered and pure.
Poaching is another gentle method, whereby the fish is gently cooked in water at 65 to 75°C. Again, virtually none of the unique taste or shape is lost.
The best wine for fish cooked this way is a light, elegant white wine that supports the freshness of the dish and is neither too aromatic nor too sweet. Ultimately, the unique flavour of the fish itself is the star turn here, which is why very aromatic, strongly seasoned sauces should not be served with a steamed or poached fish.
Tip: Light white wines from northern Spain and northern Portugal, or a light, white Bordeaux go with mussels.
Examples: Pangasius fillet, blue trout

Wine with seafood and mussels

In summary: Which wine with which fish?

Which wine goes with fish? Given the myriad delights gifted to us by the oceans, lakes and rivers, there is no straightforward answer to this question. Which red, white or rosé wine goes best with which fish dish depends on the fish and how it is cooked, as well as the sauces and accompaniments served with it.
The following overview is a good guide:
saltwater fish (e.g. plaice, salmon, tuna)
How is it cooked?
Which wine?
How is it cooked?
Pan-fried
Which wine?
light, aromatic red wines (e.g. Portugieser, Trollinger)
How is it cooked?
Grilled with strong roasted aromas
Which wine?
rich white wine (e.g. Chardonnay), light and medium-bodied red wines (e.g. Pinot noir, Grenache)
How is it cooked?
Sautéed
Which wine?
mild, dry white wines (e.g. Pinot blanc, Chardonnay)
How is it cooked?
Oven-baked
Which wine?
light white wine (e.g. Pinot blanc, Pinot gris), robust rosé
How is it cooked?
Salt crust
Which wine?
full-bodied white wines (e.g. Soave)
Freshwater fish (e.g. trout)
How is it cooked?
Which wine?
How is it cooked?
Pan-fried
Which wine?
fruity white wine (e.g. Silvaner) or fruity red wine (e.g. Pinot Meunier)
How is it cooked?
Smoked
Which wine?
zingy Riesling, southern French rosé wines, mild red wines (e.g. Grenache)
Seafood (e.g. prawns, mussels)
Wie zubereitet?
Welcher Wein?
Wie zubereitet?
Pan-fried/grilled
Welcher Wein?
aromatic, rich white wines
Wie zubereitet?
Boiled
Welcher Wein?
light, white cuvées from Portugal, northern Spain or Bordeaux
Fatty fish (e.g. eel, mackerel, salmon)
How is it cooked?
Which wine?
How is it cooked?
General
Which wine?
light red and rosé wines
Lean fish (e.g. sole, cod, sea bass)
How is it cooked?
Which wine?
How is it cooked?
General
Which wine?
restrained white wines
Fish (general)
How is it cooked?
Which wine?
How is it cooked?
In robust cream sauce
Which wine?
semi-dry white wines
How is it cooked?
Asian
Which wine?
fruit-laden Moscato or semi-dry Riesling