A reader asked: ‘why do you think there is a general notion that fish MUST be with white?’
That is a great question (but a tough one):
I’d like to think that it is an easy formula that people like to use without thinking too much about it, but some of my closest taster friends disagree with some of my fish and wine parings. While I firmly believe that there are many fish that usually need white, I also think that there are many fish that usually need red. But I think that more than anything, it depends on the way any fish is prepared.
The fish I think usually go with red are those that have bitterness (and also tend to be fatty fish) like Mackerel, salmon, tuna…. These fish are often considered the ‘steaks of the sea’. So this means that yes, I drink red with sushi (I can hear some of my Japanese friends cringing!).
The fish that usually go with white are all of the white fish (fresh cod, halibut, sole etc) and also most crustaceans (shrimp, lobster, clams etc).
Preparation plays, I think, the ultimate role in determining the wine with any dish. You can turn any of those ‘white wine fish’ into ‘red wine fish’ if you prepare them with a lot of bitterness: with a lot of herbs, with a lot of black pepper, very grilled, with lots of garlic and tomato sauce…. All of those kinds of preparations (bitter) need the tannins and structure of red wines to balance out the bitterness.
Then of course, there are some white wines that have red-wine structures (almost as if they were tannic and they can sometimes make it with the ‘red wine fish’ because of their ‘topographical relief’ (by that I mean energy that resembles tannins that might come from pepper)…
My answer may provoke more questions than the one I wanted to answer.