Lent, for those who profess Catholicism, is the time of year when people sacrifice things they enjoy by fasting for 40 days – one thing people often choose to fast is red meat. Believers are often inclined, during this time, to enjoy seafood, and there is nothing better than pairing the delicacies of the sea with the fruit of the vine: wine.
In this edition I want to pay homage to strange but functional pairings, taking advantage of the Lenten season to pair unexpected food-wine experiences. I invite you to try combinations during this season (and throughout the year). Regardless of our belief, at the end of the day, there is certainly one place everyone agrees should be enjoyable: the dinner table.
I have put together this guide to harmonize fish and wine in a not-so-conventional way, which I have deemed my “5 heavenly harmonies”:
1. Sushi and Red wine:
An inadvertent pairing. Contemporary sushi has versions that have Caribbean and Latino influences, with soft textures like cream cheese, to riskier ones like beef. They often have spicy, or highly seasoned flavors and fried toppings.
Red wine is a great pairing, especially when your roll contains a fatty protein, like salmon or tuna, making the flavor more robust. Accompany it with cream cheese, soy sauce, and a fresh touch like cucumber, carrot, and some dressing. Try it with a tempranillo or young merlot.
2. Ceviche and Pink Bubbles wine:
Ceviche is a very popular dish throughout Latin America, and although the original is prepared from fish, or shellfish. There are also vegan versions with mushrooms, hearts of palm, jicama, etc.
If you pair your shrimp ceviche with some fragrant herbs such as mint, basil or rosemary, try the pairing with a dry rosé sparkling wine.
3. Cod and Carbonic Maceration:
Cod is one of the most popular fish at the table, and it changes, surprisingly, with the different preparations, bringing explosive flavors. An interesting balance will be with a red wine made with the carbonic maceration technique (a winemaking technique whereby fermentation takes place within each grape, in whole bunches), such as Beaujolais.
This type of wine pair beautifully especially with Biscayan style cod, because this preparation elevates the flavors of the fat of the fish, the saltiness, and the tomato sauce. The wine will cleanse the greasy sensation, and is a pleasant accompaniment, as it is a young, fresh wine with low acidity and tannins, and is wonderfully aromatic.
4. Trout and Foam.
The sapid notes of this fish, together with the millenary technique of smoking, will find a rare but functional pair in a Cava, especially if it is reserved.
The woody flavors of either will not be eclipsed, as smoked trout tends to have an oily feeling, which is reduced by contact with the bubbles and the citruses of this Spanish sparkling wine.
5. Octopus and Barrel:
There are countless ways to prepare octopus as it is one of the most versatile seafood. One of my personal favorites is on the grill or in butter. In any of the 2 presentations, it is lovely with a white wine that has aged in barrels. Try a Chardonnay, which is one of the white grapes that withstands aging in wood well, as well as Viognier if you decide to incorporate citrus flavors (it can be from the sauces), or fresh and herbal flavors to your dish, just keep in mind that the octopus's doneness must be very precise to enjoy the perfect texture and flavor!
Fish pairings are not always as simple as many imagine. Remember that the salty flavors of the marine products remain pleasant, and can be balanced with some cheese, salad, or pairing it in a way that the mineral notes in the wine won’t reflect excessively saline flavors. The fine line to achieve great pairings is finding the balance so neither the food nor the drink dominates the other.
Around the world there are countless products, cooking techniques and traditions with which you can achieve wonderfully pleasant flavors and experiences. Let yourself be guided by your creativity, and keep a diary of your tastings to make it easier to achieve success in your future preparations. Immerse yourself in this world of experimentation!
Bon Appetit and stay safe!
Read more of Sommelier Monica's articles in Vino para todos